Thursday, December 27, 2012


It is very easy, I think, to give a dark seed a warm place to grow in your heart. It is easy to despair and curl up and stuff yourself full of pie and pity and a heavy, heavy dose of fuck it all. 

It is very easy to forget the things that give you the most joy and just get lost. 

I feel I have been a little lost. 

I write stories in my head that I have neither the patience nor the focus to get onto paper. I stare at running shoes in my closet, sigh, and sit back down. I say, "Later, later," to my children and later never comes. 

I cancel plans.
I ignore the phone.
I break promises.

And then little hands grab at me and small mouths kiss me and my stupid dog lays her old face next to mine and all of these things say, 'Get up.' My husband reaches across the car and holds my hand on the way to church, and the priest says something that cuts right to my heart and a friend sends me a text to tell me I'm loved. And all of these things happen for no reason, while I sit in my darkness and stew in my juices. All of these things say, 'Get up,' so I do. 

There are stories to be written and clothes to be washed and books to be read and games to be played. There are races to be run. 

Julia is asleep on the little bed on the floor next to me. I can hear her soft breathing, mixed with that of the dog. Earlier, I watched Katie walk three doors down to spend the night with a friend, wearing nearly every piece of Christmas clothing she received. She turned and waved and blew me a kiss before she walked through their gate. She knew I'd be watching. Within the hour, I expect to hear Henry's bare feet pad down the hall and into our room. He will crawl into our bed without a word and throw his arm around my neck and close his eyes. And while they sleep, they know I am here. Their easy breaths say the same thing, speaking in symphony with my heart, telling me - Get up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

O, Christmas Tree (of a most humbling nature)

Last year, you may remember that our artificial tree bit the dust last year, right before Christmas. I did two posts about it; one after the tree gave out, and one after we went out and bought a live tree. 

This year, we went to the mountains for the full on Christmas tree experience. We had cocoa. We rode on a tractor. We picked out tree and posed for the Facebook picture as the friendly fellow with the chainsaw cut it down. It was a huge, glorious tree and it scraped the ceiling of the living room. Shutup Roxy especially loved it. So much, that for her first Christmas ever, in thirteen Christmases, starting scratching her back against the bottom branches. 

"ROXY!" I yell a dozen times a day. And, "CHILDREN!", as they round the corner running and graze the tree. 

There are needles everywhere. 

"Did you water it today?" Sean asks. 

"Of course."

"Does it seem like it's dropping a lot of needles?", he asks. 

"It does."

He reaches out and touches a branch and it crumbles in his hand. We both gasp. 

We have a housefull of company coming for Christmas! We have to have a tree! We are agonizing over what to do! In the end, we decide to try to find a cheap tree, something to get us through. I'll have to undecorate the old tree and decorate the new one and I am agonizing over that to the point that I consider having a beer at two this afternoon. 

Sean and the kids go looking for a tree and I spend an hour taking ornaments and lights off the old tree. The branches snap and break and the pile of needles on the floor would fill my kitchen sink. The rest of the family returns, unable to decide because they know - this is my tree. We head out again and find it- the replecement tree, the second stringer. 

We get it home and set it in the stand and cut off the netting. It does not scrape the ceiling. 

"It's smaller than it looked on the tree lot." Sean says. 

I am slightly heartbroken. As I decorate, Sean throws out platitudes like, "Oh, it looks bigger with the lights on it." But the more I on the tree, the better I like it. The more time I spend futzing around with the ornaments and the lights, the lovelier the little tree becomes. 

There is a lesson here! I think to myself. It's like a Christmas spirit thing! I feel all warm and fuzzy. I feel smug

I feel like the biggest asshole in the world. 

There have been words rolling around in my head for the past few days that do not make sense and can not seem to make it onto paper in a coherent way. I rambled for what seemed like an eternity to Katie; nearly 12 and old enough for most truths. I couldn't seem to end the conversation and I couldn't look at her until I finally did, and said "I don't know." And then my kid put her arm around me as I sobbed about something can not, in my worst nightmare, fathom. 

Six hours later, I was mentally high fiving myself for being awesome. It is easy to forget when it's not your reality. It's easy to ignore the things that happen around us when we are safe as houses. It is easy to forget the darkness when we live in the light. 

There have been words rolling around in my head; words like faith and hope and hero and sacrifice and evil and sick and pain. Words that don't make any sense, no matter what order I put them in. The only words that seem to fall correctly everytime, the only words that ring true, are I don't know.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


"Serve you a meat, ma'am?"

Her hair is pulled back into a severe bun at the nape of the neck, and held down by a paper hairnet. She is one of those people of indiscriminate age; older than me, maybe old enough to be my mother, but maybe not. Her name tag had once read BETTIE, but years of fingers and thumbs rubbing it as she fastened and unfastened the pin has worn away much of the ink. It now reads, PET, like a title or an invitation. Her face is loose and doughy and I know that if I were to push her cheek up with my finger is would stay there for a moment, before slowly sliding back down into her jowls. Her eyes are flat and black and look through me. 

"Serve you a meat?"

I've made my way past the cold salads - limp lettuce and plastic cheese and cups of Jell-O suspending bananas and strawberry bits - and into the heart of the buffet line. The meat of the matter. Greasy fried chicken, fried liver and onions, leather like beef cut into strips and covered in gravy, thin pork chops floating in mushroom soup, Salisbury steak. 

"Salisbury steak!" I say, "Is it any good? You don't suppose it was invented in a town called Salisbury, do you?" 

Her black eyes still stare at me, but her mouth does something different. There is a sharp intake of breath and then she purses her lips and blows it out, slowly. 


Tonight she will go home and take off the thick soled shoes she wears for work. She will roll down the compression socks and fill the basin with water simmered on the gas stove. She will wince because the water is too hot, but then settle in her chair and look at her legs. 

Her feet are tired, but it's her legs that always draw the eye. She had been a dancer when she was young - long and lean, her legs full of muscles most people don't even know are there. She'd been a contest once with some other girls, standing on their toes until their legs ached and they collapsed, one by one. Some of the girls cried from the pain, their calves cramped, but not Bettie. She had stood there smiling until the last girl gave up, then slowly lowered herself back down to the ground. 

It was dance that had taken her to England, traveling on a cruise ship and making decent money to entertain the wealthy people on board. During an extended shore leave, she took up with another dancer on her way to an arts festival in Salisbury. The town had a reputation for it's hospitality toward performers, and Bettie thought she might take a break from dancing on the ship for three shows every night and four on Saturday. Settle awhile, keep her feet planted on terra firma, maybe even meet someone nice. 

Salisbury was smaller than she had imagined, and older. The city sat under the shadow of a great cathedral and it's thoroughfares were clogged with tourists and pilgrims. The rivers that had once bisected the town had been rerouted around in a manner that created great open parks, and groups of locals and visitors alike congregated on the banks of the river in all but the worst of weather. 

Her friend had been right, and Bettie quickly found a job in a local theater, dancing and occasionally doing a little acting in the ensemble. She was treated well, paid fair, and liked by her peers and patrons. She was happy. 

Bettie had been at the theater five months when the Frenchman came to his first show. He was a soldier, handsome and tall, with jet black hair and a ramrod straight back. He sat in the front row with a other men from his squadron, all in uniform, most drunk. They were loud and boisterous, but spending money and generally behaving. When Bettie took the stage, they catcalled and whistled and clapped each other on the back. All of them but the dark haired man, who sat still and quiet. His eyes did not leave her face. 

He came again the next night, this time alone. 

He came again the next night, and the next, and the next. For three weeks he came and watched Bettie dance. He never smiled, and never looked anywhere but her face. One night after her number, she stepped out the stage door for a cigarette, and found him standing there.

"You should not smoke, you know," he said, as he held out a match. 

"Tell me what else I shouldn't do," she replied. 

He was irresistible. He was smooth and handsome and showered her with gifts and attention, told her she was the most beautiful woman in the world. After they made love, he would rub her legs with perfumed cream, and kiss her feet. Once, as she waited for him outside the theater, an Englishman with bad skin and stinking of whisky approached her. 

"Will you dance for me?" he said as he grabbed at her. Before Bettie could react, the Frenchman was on the man. His fists flew at the man's face again and again, until he stopped begging and lay silently in the alley. 

"From now on, wait inside," he said. 

After three months, he asked her not to see her friends anymore. "They are whores," he said. After six months, he asked her to stop dancing, and to marry him. "You do not need to work. We don't need anything else, we have each other." He held her tightly, too tightly, and kissed her. He smashed her lips against her teeth and she tasted her own blood. 

"No, I'm sorry, no." She told him the next day and pressed the ring he had given her into his palm. He said nothing, only turned and walked away. 

They came at night on the third day after she left him. Four men in uniform, their guns out of their holsters. They walked into her apartment and beat her and raped her until she could no longer cry out, and then the Frenchman walked in. "I have not yet begun," he whispered in her ear. He started at the very top of her thigh and worked his way to her ankle, first the left leg, then the right. He carved a map of hate that ran rivers of blood that she could feel, when she could feel, pooling on the floor beneath her. She would lose consciousness only to regain it moments later, riding the wave in and out until she silently prayed for death. 

She didn't die. 

It was the landlord that found her, and the hospital that took her, and the doctors and nurses who sewed up the great gashes in her legs. It was the crutches that bore her, and the boat that carried her, across a great sea and far away from Salisbury and the Frenchmen, who disappeared like a ghost when the police tried to find him. 

She was twenty-five when she saw the sign in the window of the cafeteria. Her eyes were flat and black and her legs were swathed in heavy black stockings. She was quiet and serious and they hired her on the spot. She would work there for forty-two years until someone had the audacity to say - 

"The Salisbury steak?" I repeated, "Is it any good?" 

She exhaled and said, "I wouldn't recommend it."

Friday, December 7, 2012


"So, we were both going to go sleepover at B-'s house, and then you won't believe this! She told B- that she didn't really like me and wouldn't come over if I came over, too!"

The look on Katie's face is priceless. It is like looking in a mirror. 

"Honey, I know," I say sympathetically. "It's hard to believe that there are people who don't like us."

Because we're likeable, damn it. We're pretty good at most stuff, but not so much that it's annoying. We're pretty drama free. We might talk too much, or be a little bossy, but you generally overlook it because we're nice. 

Yet, despite this, there is the rare individual who doesn't care for our style. "She doesn't like me, I can tell." I say this recently to a friend. "There's like a weird tension." 

"No one thinks that much of you," says Sean, in his typically helpful way. 

"Um, yes they do."

He turns and walks away.

"Well, there are people you don't like, right?" I say to Katie, later. "I mean, there are lots of people I don't like."

"Really? Like who?"

"Honey, I don't believe in gossiping about people." (Lie)

"Well, do any of them not like you?"

I laugh, long and loud.

"Oh, sweetie," I say. "I can't even imagine!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Blogger - Snackerdoodle

(Meet my friend, Will. Will started a blog, and wants you to read it.  He's a fine writer, a sensitive soul, and a complete whackjob. I think you'll like him as much as I do (which is a lot). Here's his bit of shameless self-promotion, with a smidgen of ass kissing, a wee bit of begging, and a dash of guilt. He is standing on my front lawn right now, holding up a boombox that's playing 'In Your Eyes'. For the love of all that is holy, please visit his blog so he will go home.)

So as soon as I get started here, you’ll need to know that I like to “keeps it real.” I also like to use outdated slang in an attempt to not sound like a middle-aged white dude who lives in the suburbs. It’s one more shot at the youth that I lament that never really existed where I’m an artist/writer/musician with raggedy but super-cool clothes, shaggy and unkempt hair that looks perfect (and how do they do that anyways), and a deep and brooding perspective on life that shows in the lines of my forehead. In this scenario, I still smoke cigarettes and I don’t even care that they’re bad for me. I might even go filter-less as long as I’m at it here.

But if I’m really keeping it real, what I would tell you is that I’m married with two kids, and that’s what I do. That and work are all I do. I write this blog called Snackerdoodle as a final nod to what I once thought I might be one day: an artist. And the reason I am here on SFC is that it’s my shameless way to get folks who read my friend Kelly’s blog to come read my blog. You see, she very kindly offered to let me post something on hers that she’s worked on for quite a while now. She has built a fan base by writing and writing and honing her craft. It started with friends reading it like myself, and now she has all kinds of followers from all over. She can really write and she had the guts and moxie to start one in the first place. I admired her when she started it and immediately thought, “Man, I should do that.” Then I didn’t. What I did was wait until she’d done all the footwork, and then I started my own and squirmed my way into a guest spot to steal a few followers. But that’s how I roll, bitches (there’s another one for ya).

So what, really, is it that I’m trying to communicate here? What can I write that may get you to come over to (See how shameless I really am?)? How the fuck should I know? I have no idea what I’m trying to get across here, or over there. All I really know is that I have an insatiable need for people to like me and approve of me and everything I do.

This need has served me in all kinds of ways. It has enabled me to excel at lots of things because I become obsessed with them so that people will think I am “gifted” and “special.” I don’t agree with the gifted part and I may be “special,” but not in the way they mean it. I work and work at things until I get pretty good at them for attention and approval. This need for approval has also worked the other way. Inevitably, you’re not going to meet someone’s expectations and they don’t approve of you. This typically sends me into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-hatred that has taken me to some very dark places in my life.

You may be saying, “Wow, this dude is messed up. He really doesn’t think much of himself talking like that.” Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I think about myself all the time: what I’m going to eat for lunch, where I’m going to eat it, is it the right thing, what if someone from work is going out, where are they going, and why didn’t they invite me (I like food, a lot)? My need for approval is self-centered and self-obsessed, and… Ok, this self-psychoanalysis is getting annoying, even to me.

So here’s the point, come check out my blog. Become one of my “Followers” (God, I love how that sounds). I need you. Can’t you see that by now?

And what if you don’t? Well, that could be bad for me and my family. My kids may catch me sitting on our bed with a plate (note that I said “plate” and not “piece”) of cake in my lap, slugging Coke Zeros and crying. They may ask questions like, “How come all the other daddies shave and wear something other than sweatpants and holey t-shirts?” My wife may find me watching a “Project Runway” marathon and using the phrase “hot mess” repeatedly because I’ve lost all purpose in life, and wonder if she really made the right choice after all. My boss may find me, instead of working on, you know, work, typing over and over again, “Who will ever love me now?” I mean, all these things are already happening on a regular basis, but you get my point. Bottom line is, do you want all that on your conscience? I wouldn’t. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Space Invader

Visit me today at Four Hens and a Rooster ( where I'm appearing in the Twelve Guests of Christmas series for my friend, Kristen Daukus. 

Kristen is a local social media maven, writer (she holds down the fort at both Four Hens and the tween to teen focused forum, Ten to Twenty Parenting (*, mother of three, wife, frequent contributor to...uhh...everything, and a fantastic friend, to boot. Stick around on her blog and check out the other Guests, and read Kristen's take on all sorts of stuff. 

If you're visiting from Four Hens, thanks for stopping by. SFC is a collection of personal essays and short fiction and stories about poop and underwear and people who get eaten by animals. 


Also, I hardly ever post pictures anymore. If I did, they would be of this quality:

That is my foot, and my shambles of a slipper. That's a different story. 

I am also bad about replying to comments, though I read and appreciate every one. I am lazy and I suck, sorry. 

Thanks to you for coming and Kristen for sending you. I hope you stick around.

(*sorry for not hyperlinking text, I am using a new blog app and I can't figure it out!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Things Beyonce Didn't Do - Part II

(Here's what happened first -

The plunger was clearly not the answer. Now I'm sweaty and panicky and there is a very good chance I have splashed some pee on myself. There has to be a button. I must find the button. I grit my teeth, steel my nerves, and start feeling around. The wall, the door, the counter, the toilet itself. I slid my hand over god knows how many layers of fisherman pee, groping the base of the toilet. I'm pretty sure that's when I started to cry. I fell back against the sink and my hand touched something small and black and round. It was the stupid button, nowhere near the damned toilet. I pushed, it flushed, I went to wash my hands. 

No soap. 

I nearly fell out of the bathroom. The boat was really rocking now, and I walked out of the dimness of below deck into the bright sunlight. I felt...not so good. 

"Hey, are you okay?" Sean looked concerned.

"I need to sit down," I said. Just then, a wahoo hit on of the lines, and the first of our crew jumped in the fighting chair. For a few minutes, I forgot that I was covered in the pee germs of countless people. I watched him reel in the big fish and cheered as First Mate Marvin held it high. I was still feeling pretty good as he threw it in the cooler. Things headed south for me when they started to wash the blood off the deck. 

"Dude," I whispered to Sean, "I think I'm sick." 

Marvin sprang into action. He wedged me into a corner and put a bottle of cold water on my neck and told me to stare at the horizon. "If that doesn't work, we'll go to Plan B," he said. Plan B involves barf, I thought. 

Plan B actually involved my turn in the fighting chair, fighting a wahoo who ended up being eaten by a five foot bull shark. I reeled the shark in next to the boat, just close enough to see and and feel like a badass before they cut it loose. Plan B worked! For a few minutes, anyway. 

"Dude," I said to Sean. It's all I could say. "Dude."

"She's gonna blow!" Sean yells to Marvin, and he hustles me up and to the side of the boat. He carefully folded a towel and placed it on the ground, so I wouldn't further sully my knees. "Now here is what I want you to do," he said, and proceeded to tell me how to puke off the side of the boat. 

MARVIN. Friend, I have had three children, all pregnancies plagued by morning sickness. I have barfed in restaurant parking lots, in office building and amusement parks. Additionally, I have suffered from a nervous stomach since I was six, and am well known in my family for my ability to puke on command. Furthermore, I have hurked up more gin and tonics than I can count, and once, quite famously, barfed out the window of a Prius going eighty miles an hour down the interstate. 

There is absolutely nothing you can tell me about blowing chunks that I don't already know.

So, Marvin is explaining the finer points of boat hurling, and I am looking at him with crazy eyes and making a sweepy-pointy hand gesture, which is the international sign for you need to move your ass, there is throw up in my mouth.

And as I flung my torso over the side and ejected fruit punch Fanta into the glorious blue sea, I thought, first- 
I am glad I have short hair.
I am glad I didn't opt for the Mexican omelet breakfast
And finally-
Oh God, please do not let me pee myself.

Those three children who put me into the ranks of champion barfers also wreaked havoc on my poor bladder. A single sneeze requires me to cross my legs; who knows what will happen under this kind of duress. Puking in front of my brothers and a new sister in law and a handsome Spaniard and a boat full of swarthy fisherman is bad enough. But to piss my pants, too? I'd have to throw myself overboard. 

Finally, the puking stopped. My pants were still dry. My sweet, sweet husband out a cool cloth on the back of my neck and whispered, "Feel better?" 

I looked up at him and said the first thing that came to mind - "I bet Beyoncé didn't puke off the side of a boat."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Things Beyonce Didn't Do

My baby brother S- got married to a lovely woman recently, and Sean and I had the pleasure of being there to witness. In a fabulous location, with incredibly kind people, in a setting that was, for lack of a better word, swank.

It is the type of place that appeals to celebrities with one name, or just a name and an initial, usually a 'z' or 'b', or sometimes two letters, like '-lo' or '-ho', or the occasional, '-rod'. People like Beyoncé.So, my big joke of the trip became, "I bet Beyoncé didn't...". Stash complimentary minibar items in her suitcase. Have to flush the toilet three times. Wash out her underwear in the sink and dry them with the hairdryer (which would take B. approximately two minutes. It took me 20, because apparently my underwear are made of some industrial fabric like burlap or courderoy.). 

I'm so classy. Having us there was like Jethro and Ellie Mae at The Plaza.

S- chartered a boat for a half day deep sea fishing expedition. All of the men - both my brothers, Sean, the bride's sister's boyfriend D-, and the bride herself were going. I'm not exactly a fisherman, though I was always Daddy's beer and bait girl , but I thought going would give me a chance to spend time with my brothers, and get to know his new wife. Plus, I like fish, I like boats, I like drinking beer and fishing on boats - it sounded pretty great. 

You know how sometimes, you want to go back in time and punch yourself in the face because you are so fucking stupid? This is one of these times. 

The trip started out beautifully; we rolled out of the marina, over the reef and into the ocean. The waves were wavy, but everyone was chatting and getting fishing instruction and advice from our extremely knowledgable and friendly First Mate, Marvin. Fours hours later, Marvin was my best friend and if I hadn't smelled like fear and hot sick when I got off the boat, I would have kissed him on the mouth. 

I drank a fruit punch Fanta, laying down a good base coat for all the beers I was about to consume. And then, the unthinkable happened: I had to pee. 

Now, I am slightly highly claustrophobic. If you have ever had the unique pleasure of using the bathroom on a fishing boat, then you know that it's right up there with jamming a plastic spoon up your nose, in terms of awfulness. Theyare ridiculously narrow, barely lit, and hygenically deficient. You have to pee in a coffee can sized toilet while pitching around on a rocky sea and praying to God you get out of there without gonorrhea. It is pretty much my worst nightmare. 

I managed to pee without peeing all over myself, despite the extreme rocking. It was kind of comical. It would make a good blog, I thought. And then I went to flush. I remembered Marvin saying something about a black button you had to push to flush. I don't remember exactly, because as he was talking, I was telling my new sister-in-law how I had never been even the slightest bit seasick. Ever. 

I can't find the button. It's not on the wall behind the toilet, or on the back of the toilet. Nothing by the light switch or by the sink. I look for any other kind of flushing device, and find nothing. I start to sweat. I have a toilet full of pee and toilet paper and it absolutely must go down or I will be mortified. I need help. 

I stick my head out the door and see my brother S- at the top of the stairs. "Hey!", I whisper-yell. "Hey! Where's the button?"


"The button to flush the toilet!"

"Oh, naw - it's a pump. You have to pump it!" 

Shit! There's not even a button! I start looking for the pump. There is nothing in this cracker box that resembles a pump, except the plunger. Surely I am not supposed to use the plunger, am I? I am running out of options, so I decide it's worth a try. The boat is really rocking now. I can feel the sweat running down my back. My left shoe had found something sticky on the floor. I think I might cry if I can't flush my pee. 

So I start plunging. My body bounces off the walls, the plunger sloshes around, unable to find purchase. I am disgusted yet oddly fascinated that one can of fruit punch Fanta can yield so much pee. Seriously, this can't be right. And now the plunger is dripping and I can't decide if I should rinse it off in the sink or just set it down. My shoe pulls away from the floor with a crackle, and I toss the plunger aside. 

I have to find that button. 

(To be continued)