Saturday, October 29, 2011


Katie writes, colors, paints, draws, brushes her teeth, combs her hair, and throws a ball with her left hand. But she drop-kicks a ball with her right foot.

She also uses a computer mouse with her right hand. And since she was old enough to have hair on her head, she's twirled the right side of her hair with her right hand.

Today Katie got a paper cut on her right hand while reading a library book about our solar system. Tonight at bedtime, lying under the stars, moon, and planets Will pasted to her ceiling, she called out, "Mother, I twirl my hair with dis hand (holds up her right hand) not dis hand (holds up her left hand)!" She grabbed a handful of hair with her left hand and impatiently jabbed at her head as if she were trying to twirl her hair with absolutely no control over her left hand.

I wanted to laugh at her exaggerated fake incompetence, but I knew hair twirling is her thing. Like sucking my thumb was my thing. Like sleeping with a lovey is some children's thing. So I sat at the edge of her bed and asked, "What can you do to comfort yourself if you can't twirl with your right hand?" She stuck her thumb in her mouth, something she's picked up lately from her kindergarten boyfriend Aiden. A couple days after she announced they were boyfriend and girlfriend, Katie asked me why Aiden sucks his thumb.

"Probably to comfort himself when he feels scared or tired or unsure, like you do when you twirl your hair."

So tonight she tried to suck her thumb, but it lasted about ten seconds before she pulled it out and smiled. She was never big on binkies as a baby either. Just hair twirling.

"Why are you smiling?" I asked.

"You're cute when you care." Katie pulled my face to her and planted a big kiss on my lips.

"I'm cute when I care?" I asked, wondering where she heard something like that.

"Yes!" She laughed. "You're cute when you care about me, Mama."

It seems like such an oddly condescending thing for a five year old to say to her forty year old mother, but I'll take it. It's cute she thinks I'm cute when I care.

I left her room, then peeked on her about two minutes later. Sound asleep. Hair untwirled.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Peacock Daddies are Hot

Will is so proud of his little girl. That is so fucking hot. I have no idea why some people think thugs are hot. No way. Good daddies are hot. A strong man who wants to protect his daughter and give her a moral foundation upon which she can mature and create a life of wonder - that is hot. Not yo bitches and hos' bullshit.

Will and I had our first parent-teacher conference this morning. Will was beaming so much as we left the building I was surprised to find he hadn't sprouted peacock feathers on his back. He sure did attract this peahen. Proud peacock daddies are HOT!

Katie's doing well above average in reading and math, according to her kindergarten teacher. She's cooperative, on task, follows directions and participates in group activities. Big smile from both of us.

Her teacher suggested Katie could work on being more assertive. "It could help her gain confidence down the road."

Don't I know it. My teachers, my bosses. It's the first criticism I get from anyone in authority. I'm not assertive enough. They don't read my blog. They assume because I don't confront people verbally with my thoughts and feelings it means I lack confidence. No, it means I need time to think things through. I am the Queen of the Soulda Saids.

Katie's teacher explained that once she walked by and Katie wasn't doing her work. She wasn't goofing off or spacing off. She just sat quietly and looked at her paper. Her teacher asked why. Katie said, "I don't have a pencil."

Most kids would blurt out "Hey I NEED A PENCIL" or go steal one from someone, but Katie just sat there quietly, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

Her teacher said it's no big deal, just something we can be aware of to help her break out of her shell. I'm not worried. She's quite assertive with her mother and other kids at the playground, so I know Katie's got it in her. I think she's still just adjusting to being in a classroom setting, figuring out how to ask for help when there are 20 other much more noisy, assertive children around fighting for the teacher's attention.

When we got out of the conference, Will said to Katie, "One way you can ask for help if you feel shy and don't want to talk is to just raise your hand."

Later in the kitchen, Katie took her daddy's advice to get something she wants. "If you think Halloween is fun, raise your hand!" We both raised our hands.

Then she said, "If you want a piece of candy, raise your hand!" We both raised our hands, duh.

Brilliant display of advice, Peacock Daddy.

Suburban School "Safe" Trick or Treat from Hell

Last night the local high school hosted a "safe" trick or treat night for Katie's school, grades kindergarten through third. Will had to work tonight. I'm honestly glad because it was so freaking crowded at that place Katie and I kept getting our hands pulled apart through the waves of people, just the two of us. I can imagine if there were three of us the other two would spend most of the party trying to find the third person.

I've never been somewhere more crowded. New York City subways have nothing on the crowd at this Midwestern suburban high school. Parents hunched over from a long day, hauling their kids around in the most gaud awful tacky costumes, everyone's face red and hair plastered to their sweaty heads.

Everything went wrong that could. Katie stopped in the middle of the crowd several times and screamed, "I feeling too crowded!" We had to WAIT and WAIT and WAIT to participate in the games and activities. I swear we waited twenty minutes for Katie to spend two minutes smearing some orange frosting on a sugar cookie and then being swatted off so the next child could have her seat.

Someone stepped right in front of me as I was taking a picture of Katie impressively swinging a plastic bat at a ball into the "home run" section of the net. We were both pushed and shoved and got separated three times by the mass of bodies, and all I could hear was Katie screaming, "Mama! Mama! Where you go?!" I'd push my way toward her voice and we'd embrace. Then she'd look at me like I killed a kitten in front of her and yell, "Mama, you have to STAY CLOSE TO ME!"

After an hour, Katie was shooting mini hoops for candy and missed both shots. She lost it. She started crying, tripped and spilled all the candy out of her bucket. She sat sobbing on the floor, her gown growing grey film at the bottom of it from all the grime. Tears streaming down her face, Katie sat and watched while two other parents helped me picked up the candy. I thanked them profusely, and they both smiled at me genuinely like, "Been there before, Mom. Don't worry!"

I tugged her arm and said, "Katie, it's time to go home."

Katie, still crying, whined, "I don't wanna go home!"

I couldn't help but laugh. "Katie! You're obviously not having fun."

Tears still streaming down her face, she shouted, "I AM TOO HAVING FUN!!!"

We wove our way around people and finally found the exit. We stepped into a nearly empty hallway. I didn't realize until then how sweaty I was. The cool air from an open door out into the circle drive felt wonderful on my burning rosacea face. I dropped the stuff I'd been carrying onto a table to get out my keys. My arm throbbed as I tried to unbend it from the position it had been in for the last hour, holding my coat, Katie's coat, cookie, ghost balloon, and the T-shirt she won from the girl's volleyball team.

Which was very cool. Even though we were being jostled around, I couldn't stop smiling, watching all these older kids putting on this tremendous party for these little kids. The various games and activity tables were set up and staffed by high school kids in various groups like STUCO, cheerleaders, girls' basketball, boys' baseball and other student organizations. I was off drinking Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill at 7:00 on a Thursday night when I was in high school. I was definitely not at school when school was not in session. Often not even when it was. So it makes me happy that these kids today are not all "ugh, kids today" as adults often complain.

I found my keys. I told myself everything would be fine. Katie would pass out on the drive home and I'd carry her to bed. I'd take a valium.

I looked down at Katie, expecting to see the same scowl she had nearly the entire hour in the other room. Instead, I saw an adorable girl wearing the flower girl gown she wore at my niece's wedding earlier this year. Here was Glinda the Good Witch, digging through her plastic pumpkin, assessing the value of her loot. "Candy! Gum! Oooh and tattoos!"

She looked up at me. Her features had returned to normal, her eyes twinkling. "That was a blast!"

At first I laughed. Then I realized she meant it, in that completely unironic way only a five year old is capable of.

Emotions are so flexible at her age. Moody? Yes. But not always bad moods. Kids are quicker to spring back into a good mood it seems than adults are. Just when you start to think the only rational explanation for your child's behavior is that she has suddenly become possessed by the devil, snap! Your sweet child has returned to you, smiling and ready for some sugar.

It took me several hours and one valium to unwind after this so-called "safe" trick or treat party from hell. But Katie was instantly ready to forget the bad stuff and focus on the good stuff. Like how the moment your baby is placed into your arms you immediately forget all the pain you had felt moments ago. She held her pumpkin full of candy with the same kind of awe.

Katie skipped to the car as I hauled my exhausted body as fast as I could behind her. She'd periodically stop, turn around and shout, "Come on Mom! Let's go home and eat some CANDY!"

Oh how I wish candy still did the trick for me like it did when I was five.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thank You, Pat

I sat here a minute ago and realized I'm happy. I'm not above fleeting moments of emotional negativity, but those feelings no longer consume me. The bed is no longer the only thing holding me up. I wake up excited for the day. Who knew that was possible?

Katie knows it. This morning I turned to find her nestled between Will and me in our king sized bed. My movement must have woken her. She opened her eyes and smiled. After a few silent seconds she startled me with such a wide-awake voice, saying, "Is it morning yet?"

She shot up in bed when I told her it was. "Yay, it's morning! Good morning, Sun! Good morning Sawyer! You can give me as many good morning kisses you want."

Will turned and smiled at us. His warm, deep voice still groggy, he said, "Good morning" with just enough force you knew it wasn't an option. He had dressed up as Mario for Katie's classroom Halloween party yesterday. He even shaved his full beard, leaving a long, thick mustache no fake mustache that comes with the costume could match. We entered the classroom and twenty little five year old faces beamed at him and several voices could be heard shouting, "Mario! It's Mario!" It's stuff like that Will does that makes me fall further in love with him each day. Further.

Nearly a year ago I couldn't get out of bed. Even with these two adorable, wonderfully amazing people lying next to me, egging me on. When you're sucked into that overwhelming vat of emptiness, all you're capable of feeling is guilty that you can't fake happiness for your family. You want them to know your sadness has nothing to do with them. It's like having a cold. Being under the weather. No matter who you have loving you, reminding you how wonderful life is, wanting you to enjoy it with them, you can't. Not that deep down you don't want to. You simply can't until you get over your illness.

It takes time. Just like getting over anything.

My brother died of liver failure in January. He was 49. Alcohol was his coping method of choice against this harsh life. It helped him get through the night alright, and it also sped up the ending of his life. His fiancee had died a month prior to his diagnosis. He missed her. He grieved and drank heavily and knew what he was doing. When he started swelling up like his fiancee had before she died, my brother confessed he wanted to be with her. He was tired of this life. He didn't have time to get over the grief of losing her to make a sober decision to stop drinking and have a liver transplant.

I don't know what happens to us after we die. I hope we don't just turn into dirt. But even if we do, at least we'll still be part of the cycle of life, keeping the plants and detritivores alive. So that's not so bad.

I hope there's a little more though. I don't expect harps, although that would be lovely. I don't expect everyone to wear white robes, because, you know, some people like purple. My brother would want a purple robe. I don't expect to finally know all the answers to life's big mysteries. If I didn't have the big questions to ponder, what would I do with my time? I guess I could learn how to play the harp.

But I do hope I get to mingle with my loved ones after I die. I'd like to see my brother and his fiancee dancing in the clouds to their song. Just as I'd like to see my grandpa. I'd pick him out of a crowd of angels by the smell of his cigarette. I'd hug him and point out that he still had holes in his shirt where the ashes would fall from his cigarettes.

I don't know if I'll get to encounter my grandfather, my brother, or anyone else in the afterlife. I hope so. Regardless, my time on this earth feels more fragile now, and therefore more valuable. In that way, my brother's death was a rebirth for me. He gave up on this life and it made me appreciate this imperfectly wondrous world. He died and it made me want to live more. I feel blessed and ready to get out of bed.

It's taken nearly a year of grieving my brother's death for me to feel back to my regular state of mental health. I wish my brother had that kind of time to grieve. Survivor's guilt won't slow down this spinning globe or make time stop until I'm ready to spin with it, so I'll just say to my brother, "Thank you, Pat" and leave it at that.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"So it's sort of stored sun that's coming out when you burn a log." - Richard Feynman

I just finished reading the graphic biography Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick. Will recommended it to me. I didn't think I'd like it, it'd be too science-y and boring. No way. Instead I felt energized reading it. It left me wanting more, excited at my discovery that, after this past year's extreme navel-gazing brought on by my brother's death, my turning 40, and my daughter starting school, I'm still curious about the world. Outside myself. I'm ready to pay attention and ask questions, without necessarily needing answers.

Will's got me geeking out with him in his man cave, watching online video interviews of this brilliant man. It's astounding how Feynman knows something so thoroughly he can break it down into simple terms that even I can comprehend. Like how Kurt Vonnegut uses simple words to communicate his complex ideas in Slaughter-house Five. Break anything down to its most fundamental form to find meaning in it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Love You Every Day, Will

Saturday was our seven year anniversary. Katie slept over at her cousins' house, so it was date night for Will and me. Stop right there. You can get the bow chica wow wow out of your head. I know you're thinking it, and I'm certainly not judging you. Under normal circumstances, it's perfectly reasonable to assume a wedding anniversary is celebrated by a couple exploring each other's bodies in an orgasmic state of harmony. But it wasn't like that. I passed out. Again. Just like our wedding night. If our marriage were a TV show it would be a sitcom. Something always foils our plans. Even when we do things the way I like and have no plans. Our TV show might not win awards for romance or drama, but it'd be good for a laugh.

Will and I had an unconventional wedding, so it makes sense that our anniversaries also defy custom. Part of the problem is I'm no good at special occasions. I love Will every day. More and more each day. So I don't quite get why I have to buy him a present or give him a card one day of the year so he knows how much I love him. I prefer to not make such a big deal about it and show him I love him every day.

But I married a romantic. So I go along. I celebrate. I try my best. But somehow I always jack shit up.

I usually buy him the wrong kind of chocolates. Will is very particular about what kind of chocolates he deems worthy enough to help celebrate such a special occasion. I saved a picture of them on my computer so I'll quit getting him the wrong kind and then yelling at him for being so picky and then feeling guilty when he says stuff like, "I'm picky enough to have picked you." It only took me five anniversaries to figure out I need photographic documentation to get it right.

Last year we spent lots of money on a cool eco-friendly hotel room with a private hot tub. I don't know how a hot tub can be eco-friendly. I hope it has nothing to do with recycling the water used by other guests.

The year before that I learned that the word "Jacuzzi" does not imply hot tub with massaging jets. Apparently "Jacuzzi" is a brand name. A brand name for a company that manufactures all kinds of bath tubs. Even the kind without massaging jets. So when you call a fancy schmancy hotel in a cool college town within driving distance of your suburban home, remember to ask not, "Does the room have a private jacuzzi?" Instead, be clear. "Does the room have a private hot tub with massaging jets?" Then you won't spend the first hour of your stay talking to the manager about how they can make your experience better when the one thing you thought you asked for isn't in the overpriced room.

But this anniversary I had no one to blame but myself. I can't believe a joker like me is trusted to manage anyone. I'd offer myself a bottle of champagne like the manager of the fancy schmancy hotel did when he screwed up, but that would just make my situation worse.

It started at a fabulous locally-owned, cozy Italian restaurant. I had two glasses of the house red wine with my chicken spiedini. On the way home after our romantic dinner, we stopped by the liquor store up the street from our house. I bought a bottle of French wine because it was fairly inexpensive and had a rating of 90 from some so-called afficionado. Or no, that's what you call people who smoke cigars. Wine connoisseur I believe is what I'm going for. "Enthusiast" would work too. I have no idea what kind of wine is good. The liquor store owner's teenager could be assigning scores to the wine and I would know no difference.

When we got home we played drunken chess. Yes, I said chess, not chest. Will was feeling old school, so he drank Schlitz beer in the Schlitz glasses his dad had found in his grandma's basement.

So there we were, an old married couple, drinking Schlitz and cheap wine, playing chess. That's what I remember.

I woke up with a headache. I was lying next to Will in bed, naked. I couldn't remember how I got there. I tried to trace back my memory of our anniversary night, but the fog would not lift from my brain past our chess match. I remembered winning, kind of, only because Will pointed out the move I was about to make would put my king in danger. I remember feeling really good. Not that I won, but that my husband chivalrously prevented me from losing. It made me feel good thinking about it in bed too, listening to Will softly snore. But I felt a little uneasy not remembering how I got there.

I put my arm around Will and kissed his cheek. I didn't know if it was a good morning kiss or a makeup kiss. He smiled. I sighed. Then we laughed together as Will poked fun at me. He told me the truth of what happened after our chess game. I got frisky, we made it to bed, I passed out, literally on top of him.

"Did I head butt you?" I covered my eyes, peeking through my ring finger and tall man to see Will's reaction.

"No, your head went - splat!" Will patted his right shoulder.

I cringed. "I passed out, just like our wedding night?!"

"Yep. You know you're going to have to blog about this?" Will teased.

"No, no! I'm too embarrassed." My hands still covered my face.

"You better share this story with the world before I get a chance to. I'll make shit up..."

"Oh, I'm such a horrible wife!" I half laughed and half cried.

Will rolled over and kissed me, looked me in the eye, and said, "No. We're perfect for each other."

Thankfully he's right once again.

So here it is, world. I love my husband even though on special occasions I'm a bad lay.

Will got up and went to work. Before leaving to pick up Katie, I looked in the mirror and realized I wasn't as hungover as I thought I was. My glasses sat crooked on my face. So no, not everything in the world was as tilted as it seemed, but it's definitely time for a new pair of glasses.

As I stared at my face, I remembered waking up at some point the night before because something was poking me. My glasses and I have been together longer than Will and I have, and I think they're finally sick of me falling asleep on them. I better cut back on the wine before Will gets sick of it too.

Friday, October 21, 2011

There Are No Beginnings There Are No Endings, Just a Cycle of Life in Many Forms

"The Man Cave's Not-Too-Upsetting Guide to Down-There Parts" --The Rachel Maddow Show

Oh, how I love it when gay people set the record straight about how heterosexual sex works. Dan Savage, one of my favorite bigass homos, educates straight people too.

Rachel Maddow is my favorite bigass homo political science teacher. She can take complex political ideas and simplify them so even a lazy learner like me can understand them. She does the same thing here with her simply hilarious sex ed segment in response to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's obvious ignorance as to how a woman gets pregnant. He has, what, five kids? Proof that anyone can have a kid, even if they don't know how it happened. Might as well blame it on the stork.

I don't believe life starts at conception. And I certainly don't believe ignorant politicians should prevent people from using hormonal forms of birth control, The Pill, an IUD, that ring thing. You know, the form of birth control MOST young women in the United States use so they don't have an unwanted pregnancy which turns into an unwanted child which turns into an uncared for person. Or a person who the rest of us then give part of our income to in the form of taxes that pay for that oops of a person's housing, food, education and healthcare expenses.

Not that only poor people have unwanted pregnancies. Lots of people who can support themselves can also financially support their unplanned children. They just screw with their kids psychologically, but that's ok because it keeps the shrinks, the spiritual advisors, and the pharmaceutical industry in business.

The reason I don't believe life begins at conception is not because I'm a fan of abortions. Ending a pregnancy is a horrifying thing. The government has no right interfering in the private decision-making process of a person considering such a morally ambiguous choice. But that's not my complaint about any kind of "life begins at conception" bill.

I don't believe that life begins at conception because I believe life never ends. I think of life as energy, something which can never be created nor destroyed. It doesn't end. It transforms. People die. Animals die. Plants die. Cells die. But life doesn't end because of their death. It's just transformed into something else, a decomposed body, soil, energy for other living things.

No one KNOWS when life begins. Most of us have our BELIEFS about when life begins. Even scientists and spiritual guides are ignorant about it. They think, they believe, but they do not know. Scientists can figure out how an ovum and a sperm combine and multiply into a clump of cells that either get imbedded into a uterine wall or not. Spiritual guides tell us when they believe life begins. But no one, including me, can say for sure.

In my case, being subfertile, I most likely have conceived lots of clumps of cells but they have failed to attach to my womb. Doctors say my hormones are out of whack. Spiritual guides say I don't pray enough. But either way, although I feel sad that I can't seem to have another baby, I don't feel guilty that my uterus isn't a good hostess to Will's and my clump of cells. I don't feel like I'm preventing a life from beginning. I'm just preventing a life from transforming. It will go on without me.

That clump of cells is life, whether or not it implants in my uterus or gets flushed down the toilet at the end of the month. It's disappointing to think about the lost chance of spending time with that clump of celluar life that doesn't stick around, but I don't feel like a death occured. Life just changed form. A clump of cells got flushed down the toilet where it most likely got digested by some detritivores who then transformed it into something else, water, gas, dirt, fish food whatever. And we eat the fish and poop it out and it starts all over again.

My point is not to show you how if you think about it we eat our own children. I'm interested in, and comforted by, the cycle of life. A leaf falls from a tree. Detritivores digest it and transform it into soil which then the tree absorbs energy from to produce another leaf which will eventually fall to the ground on and on and on. It's really beautiful, life. In all forms.

Anyone who says they know when life begins is just not thinking things through. Mitt Romney, I'm looking at you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jokes Not Bombs

Katie has learned the fine art of using humor to defuse an argument. A couple of weeks ago, a boy in her class named Nicholas was teasing her, saying she was wearing a pajama top. Most of her clothes are hand-me-downs, so for all I know it actually is a pajama top. I'm pretty oblivious to fashion. It has a kitty on it and it's purple so it fits the strict criteria Katie has suddenly imposed upon her wardrobe since she began spending five days a week with other children. It's as if she has been slapped in the face with societal expectations using a fancy white glove girls were once expected to wear to church. I tell her all the time, "Wear what you want." And what she wants right now is to fit in with the other girls in her school. Understandable.

I also understand how Katie felt when someone implied she doesn't know the difference between night clothes and school clothes. Katie was annoyed. So much so, she told me about the pajama comment first thing as we were walking home from school. I asked her what she did when he teased her. She said, "I told him this is NOT a pajama top and walked away." Oh thank you Jesus, she turned the other cheek.

Then Tuesday Katie got to wear pajamas to school for Red Ribbon Week. When the half-day kids were dismissed, she hugged me and said, "Guess what? I walked up to Nicholas and said, 'Hey, I AM wearing pajamas today!' and he laughed. Nicholas is my friend now."

World leaders, pay attention to your five year olds. They might be wiser than you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Ride with the Devil

When "Ride with the Devil" was released, I didn't read any reviews of it. I had read about it while it was being filmed. I had a big crush on Tobey Maguire, ok? So I went to it without any warning from the critics. My opinion of the film would be entirely my own.

After seeing it the first time, I became obsessed. I saw it in the movie theater seven times, six by myself because I wanted to remain undisturbed during the entire film.

So imagine my shock when tonight, over ten years later, I read its box office results while researching where it was filmed (Pattonsburg, Missouri) and discovered it's considered a flop. It was like $35 million to make, but it only earned like $650,000 or something like that. And many critics said as a character study/action film it didn't quite fit together.

Really? Is this another "Walking and Talking"? I have unfriended people for disliking the movie "Walking and Talking".

I once recommended it to a friend at work, and when she reported to me the next day that she thought it was "awful" I never felt the same way about her again. It would be like finding out after a year that your boyfriend is a Republican.

My brother Pat, God love him, once replied, "Yeah, she could warn everyone what movies NOT to see with her raving reviews" when my mom said to me, "You should write movie reviews." I had just come home from yet another failed corporate job, before I started working at the library.

But then I found this review of the film, and I can see why yes of course I love it. "Like all of Lee's films, Ride with the Devil, an ambitious Civil War epic featuring career-best performances by Tobey Maguire and Jeffrey Wright, appeals more to the ears than the eyes and is more literate than cinematic." Words words words. I love 'em.

Here's my favorite quote:

Jake Roedel: "What kind of liberty is it that takes away the liberty of others?"


But yeah. If you want to remain my friend, please do not take the liberty of telling me you think "Ride with the Devil" or "Walking and Talking" suck.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Accidental Protest

I do not understand the point of Red Ribbon Week at Katie's school. Other than as fodder for ridicule and confusion.

Yesterday Katie was unable to "Be a Team Player" by not wearing her "favorite team shirt/jersey". Last week a note was sent home reminding us that this week is Red Ribbon Week. It's today's attempt at an anti-drug campaign. They fried eggs on TV to show us the dangers of drugs when I was a kid.

Even though they sent home the reminder, first thing Monday morning it never crossed our minds to dress our daughter in a sporty shirt so she could "Be a Team player – Stay Drug Free." So, she went to school wearing her Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. Total accident, but I love the irony. I just wish I had seen the faces of the teachers and administrators as my cute ponytailed girl waltzed down the hallway wearing a shirt that celebrates the life of a genius musician who by all accounts was decisively pro-drugs.

Today, kids were encouraged to wear pajamas to "Say Goodnight to Drugs." What does that mean? It sounds like a slogan for some sleeping aid. But Katie was so excited to wear her Halloween nightie to school. My skepticism crumbled before her cute enthusiasm. She insisted even the teachers were going to wear pajamas today. I asked her why.

"So they can say goodnight to, uh, um, uh, those bad things."

"Drugs?" I helped her out.

"Yeah, so they can say goodnight to drugs!"

It took all my might to keep my eyeballs from rolling into the back of my head. I swallowed my Allegra and Sertraline with a swig of strong coffee and bit my tongue.

So guess who showed up today for her reading helper volunteer job at Katie's school wearing her robe and slippers while no other grownups appeared to be wearing pajamas? Yep. I am officially The Dudette.

What could I do? I just smiled, held my sweet girl's hand, and escorted her into the building. In my fuzzy robe. In front of the huge line of cars filled with parents dressed for work, dropping their kids off. Probably thinking I dropped something first thing this morning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hero of the Day: United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Shamar Thomas

"United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Shamar Thomas from Roosevelt, NY went toe to toe with the New York Police Department. An activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement, Thomas voiced his opinions of the NYPD police brutality that had and has been plaguing the #OWS movement.

Thomas is a 24-year-old Marine Veteran (2 tours in Iraq), he currently plays amateur football and is in college.

Thomas comes from a long line of people who sacrifice for their country: Mother, Army Veteran (Iraq), Step father, Army, active duty (Afghanistan), Grand father, Air Force veteran (Vietnam), Great Grand Father Navy veteran (World War II)." --BklynJHandy

Friday, October 14, 2011

Healthy Choices for a Drug Free Life!

Katie brought home this note from school, asking us to "talk to [her] about healthy choices for a drug free life!"

I found it inside her back pack as I was looking over her school work, sipping a cup of coffee. Oh, yeah! It reminded me I hadn't taken my allergy meds or my anxiety meds first thing that morning. I walked over to the kitchen medicine cabinet, well stocked with over the counter items such as Tylenol, Mucinex, and Benedryl. But also lots of prescription medication, both current and expired. I saw a bottle of prescription pills Will had brought home for me a few days after my C-section. But not the good stuff. I had taken all of the Percocet, got a refill, tried to get more and was denied years ago. Still in there also is the prescription anti-nausea pills the doctor gave me last December, before I'd started my daily regimine of anti-anxiety medication. That was before Pat died in January of alcoholism-induced liver failure. When we were still trying to soak up all the light he still had while here on earth. When my nausea was so overwhelming, I was having trouble getting out of bed.

I popped an Allegra and a couple of Sertralines and walked back to the table to look over the note from Katie's school.

Although I am excited to send Katie to school in her pajamas on Tuesday, I don't understand how that's going to keep her from huffing whipped cream containers at the grocery store when she's a teen.

My brother Pat was arrested for stealing when he was a teen. He and his buddy were fooling around huffing nitrous oxide, aka "hippie crack," from whipped cream containers. When they were caught giggling uncontrolably in the dairy aisle, the manager called the cops. There will be no fun at the IGA. Pat and his buddy tried to explain that they weren't actually eating the whipped cream, but they got booked for shoplifting anyway.

I am neither pro-huffing nor anti-huffing, but I am anti-stealing. They should have just paid a buck and taken the can to the woods, duh. I understand nitrous oxide kills brain cells. So does our public education system with it's emphasis on test scores and conformity.

I also understand that nitrous gives you a wonderful floaty feeling when you're in the dentist chair and she's about to drill into your already sensitive, cavity infested tooth. When I was a kid I'd ask for the nitrous just for a six month cleaning. My hygenist thought I had a low tolerance for pain, but I actually had a desire to get high. I didn't know what they were giving me was a drug, per se. I just knew I loved going to the dentist.

As a result perhaps a few of my brain cells went AWOL, but I can always dazzle you with my smile if not my mental flossings.

So yeah, yeah, I'll talk to Katie about "healthy choices" just as I have the many times she's caught me putting things of questionable health into my own mouth. My mom used to hide her Coca-Cola in a coffee cup so us kids wouldn't ask for some. Brilliant! But not really what I'm going for. Instead of hiding my bad habits, I let Katie see me for who I am. Sometimes she sees me eat salad and fresh fruit and nuts and cottage cheese. Sometimes she sees me tear into a bag of Lay's Sour Cream and Onion chips and then complain of a tummy ache the next day. When Katie asks for dessert after she's just finished eating pancakes, I remind her that both things have lots of sugar and "Remember what happened the last time you ate too much sugar [insert vomit sound]?" Sometimes she changes her mind and decides to save a treat for later. Other times she wants to try her luck. I'm trying to let her make most of the decisions about her own body so she knows her limitations.

Because that's what it's all about. It's more than "just say no to drugs". What about antibiotics your doctor says are ok to take when you have an ear ache? What about drugs that are ok for adults (tobacco, alcohol) but not kids? What about sugar, which is legal for kids despite its known effect of releasing seratonin throughout your blood stream. What about those kids that take Ritalin because they can't sit still? What about the kids who need an inhaler when they run around in gym?

And I don't want to tell my daughter, "It's ok to take drugs if a growup tells you it's ok, especially if your doctor says it's ok." My mom's doctor gave her synthetic estrogen, DES, while she was pregnant with all us kids, thinking it would help prevent miscarriages. Five months after I was born, they took it off the market because they discovered that many of the children of the DES mothers were developing reprodutive abnormalities and problems with fertility. Kill some brain cells by watching late night TV and you'll see copious ads for lawyers who want to sue someone over some recalled medication. Experts don't know everything. And even though it's my role as her mother to be an authority figure in her life, I certainly don't know everything.

But I know kids learn by example. If I want Katie to be a reader when she grows up, she needs to see me reading for pleasure. If I want her to make healthy choices about what she puts into her body, she needs to see me putting healthy things into my body. But the reverse is also true. Sometimes we learn through observation what not to do. Seeing her Uncle Pat die at age forty nine of liver failure was quite a lesson about alcoholism for her. But so is seeing her mommy and daddy enjoy a framboise lambic in moderation occasionally and not get sick from it.

I'm hoping she'll eventually realize that it's beyond a simple "drugs are bad" mentality. Some drugs are good. My antihistimine and anti-anxiety medications help me get out of bed each day and live a fairly productive life. Some drugs are not so good in excess. If you drink lots of perfectly legal alcohol every day for more than thirty years like her Uncle Pat did, your liver might not be able to take it. But it might. While Pat was dying, I read a statistic that something like only 10% - 20% of heavy drinkers ever develop cirrosis of the liver.

I want my daughter to understand that drugs, or anything we put into our body, are not just good or bad. We should be teaching our kids about moderation and critical thinking and mindfullness. When my daughter is thirteen and her buddy asks if she wants to huff some whipped cream containers, hopefully she'll think it through and decide for herself if she wants to, whether or not she wore her pajamas to school in kindgergarten for drug-free school awareness week.

I want Katie to think for herself and also understand that she won't always have the answers. And when she feels clueless, she can ask me anything. I might not have the answers either, but at least she'll know I'm being honest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is the Love of Money the Root of All Evil?

“But there was a time I asked my father for a dollar and he gave it a ten dollar raise.” –Indigo Girls “Prince of Darkness”

I’m bad at math. I am so bad at math that I am currently not seeking the “Literature, Language and Writing” degree at the state university. I would love to complete it if it weren’t for the harsh math requirements. Requiring a class one level HIGHER than College Algebra for basically a fancy creative writing degree, really? I say I’m bad at math, but I’m just lazy at math. I can do it if I try, but I don’t like math and I’m really lousy at making myself do things I don’t like. I’m too spoiled to burden my brain with all those numbers.

Any pseudo-shrink could tell you I don’t like math because I associate it with money, and I associate money with my dad, a retired accountant. My dad is capitalism incarnate. He would call me communism incarnate, but he would mispronounce it and I would have to remind him I'm actually a socialist democrat. I'm the armchair Sen. Bernie Sanders to Dad's armchair President Reagan.

Dad spent Saturday mornings at his desk, fingers tap tap tapping on his adding machine like Fred Astaire’s feet on the dance floor, reconciling our bank account. I say “our” bank account loosely because in theory it paid for the entire family’s expenses, but my dad had final say on how the money was allotted. Steak for dad. Tuna casserole for mom and the kids. A bitchin’ Camaro for dad. A shitty Vega for mom. A window air-conditioner for Dad’s bedroom where you were not allowed to open the door and let the cool air out. Window fans for the kids’ bedrooms. Regular mattress and box springs in an actual bed for Dad. Roll-away fold-out beds with springs that poked us if we laid a certain way that we'd inherited from my great-grandmother for my sister and me. Canned pop for my dad’s lunch, another thing we weren’t allowed to touch, and 2-Liter bottles of pop for the rest of the family. There were all these rules in our house about who got what, and they amounted to Dad growling until he got his lion’s share.

When I was in junior high I stumbled upon the expression, "The love of money is the root of all evil" no doubt while reading about some anti-money but nonetheless rich celebrity in “Star Hits” magazine. Living in suburban Johnson County Kansas during the Regan-era, a community hit hard with affluenza, I was relieved to discover I wasn’t the only person who despised money.

Much later I discovered the quote’s biblical roots (1 Timothy 6:10, KJV). It made sense that someone like Jesus who had the audacity to love the poor would say something like that.

Christ comforting a poor man. Glazed terracotta, ca. 1493. Workshop of Luca della Robbia the Younger (Italian, 1435–1525.)

I don’t believe in God in the traditional sense, white bearded old guy hanging out in the clouds. Most Sundays I can’t be bothered to drag my ass out of bed to congregate with my spiritual brothers and sisters. The way the Bible is used by some to condemn others, particularly homosexuals, offends me. So I don’t call myself a Christian. But I really dig a lot of what Jesus said, if you believe his biographers, and I’ve tried to live my life accordingly.

But I’ve twisted my ankle many times wandering along the path of hating money, especially while wearing my Jesus sandals. For one thing, I’ve discovered in my forty years that paying attention to something you hate is important. As any self-help millionaire/guru will tell you, ignoring something doesn't make it go away. Simply hating greed doesn’t innoculate me from having to pay my bills. And if I don't pay attention to what happens to the money I earn to pay for my comfortable life, it gets quite uncomfortable.

A while back, Will and I boosted the economy of the auto repair industry by $473 so we could continue to electronically roll down our window as we stimulate the fast-food industry's economy at various drive thrus. I used to just swipe our credit card to pay for an unexpected expense. Savings account? What's a savings account? If you mean my five year old daughter's piggy bank, I emptied it the last time I desperately needed an eyebrow waxing or a massage, you know, an emergency situation.

I was trying hard to stimulate the credit card industry less so I'd have more money to stimulate other more caring businesses I care about, such as Whole Foods, Costco, and the local Ethiopian restaurant.

So I looked over our, well, uh, it's not exactly a check book ledger. It's a mini calendar where I write down when bills are due to be electronically debited from our checking account, and also when my most fertile ovulation days are. Maybe I should move the mortgage payment date to a couple of weeks away from when I'm ovulating to alliviate the stress in my life and improve my chances of conception.

I checked in my mini ovulation calendar/bank account ledger and it looked like we could squeak by paying for the car repair out of our checking account. We'd have to eat up our canned goods instead of going to the grocery store, and I might have to skip a few washings to conserve on the contents of our nearly empty shampoo bottle, but it was worth it to not pay The Man interest, man. And I'd look like a dirty hippie while stickin' it to the man - right on!

My excitement subsided a couple hours later when I opened my email and saw the nice, cheery email from Shutterfly telling me that the 600+ pictures I ordered a couple days earlier had been shipped. Panic. Look at ovulation calendar/bank account ledger. More panic. I had not written down the Shutterfly purchase. Our bank account would be overdrawn.

Immediately it felt like someone hit me at the top of my shoulders with a sledgehammer. I could hear my dad's voice nagging me even though he lives thirty miles away.

I started thinking, "Maybe I could call the car repair place and have them re-run the transaction so I could pay for it with my credit card."

The car repair place was already closed.

"Maybe I could return the flea medicine I just bought for the dogs and cross my fingers that a few days Frontline-free wouldn't be an open invitation to all neighborhood fleas to jump onto my dogs."

Nope, they're closed too.

"Maybe I could borrow the money from my mom."

I'm still paying off the loan her husband gave me to pay off the freakin' car that needed the repair in the first place.

"How much can I get for selling plasma? Is there a place open this late at night?" My thoughts only grew more desperate from there.

My friends whose dads weren't so greedy/frugal/authoritarian have no idea why I panic when I make stupid financial mistakes. They say, "Don't worry about it. Pay the overdraft fee and forget about it. We all make mistakes. You're human!" But I always sink into self-loathing instead.

Is it ironic that something I hate, by not paying close attention to it, causes me to hate myself? I'm not sure because I haven't taken the Calculus prerequisite needed to take the "Literature, Language and Writing" course that goes over irony. But I think it's interesting, and maybe I should do something about it.

In the meantime, I'm going to wrap myself in the comforting arms of my husband, and my husband's mom and dad. As I sat crying on our futon telling Will what a dumbass I am, he started whipping out some cash. He got up, wordless, went to our bedroom, one of many rooms cooled with central air conditioning, and came back with his piggy bank. He emptied the contents onto our table and started counting. "Call my dad. He'll lend us some money til Friday."

I was astounded. What? No, "How could you be so stupid?" No, "What were you thinking?" No, "This is coming out of your eyebrow waxes and Ethiopian food binges!" My husband just stopped, calmly found a solution to the problem, and without much ado, pulled together enough cash for us to deposit into the ATM so we'd be covered. I called my father-in-law to make sure.

"Uh, um, I did a really stupid thing and our checking account is overdrawn. Is there any possible way we could, uh, um, borrow like $20 until Friday?"

Before I got the rest of "until Friday" out, he cut me off and said, "Sure, no problem!" No questions asked. No judgment given.

He immediately drove over and handed us not one, but two twenties. "Just as a little cushion. Do you want more?"

Ask and ye shall receive. Haven't I heard that from someone before?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Kind of Kid Prefers Homework To a Cookie?

I recently blogged about how Katie was bored with her homework. Thanks to the mercurial nature of children, my own homework is being mindful not to take everything Katie says so seriously. Pay attention, for sure, but don't get out the old stone chisel and start taking dictation. That's what blogs are for. The ethereal thoughts of childhood are well suited for cloud computing.

Yesterday when I got home from work, I handed Katie half of the giant cookie I got at a training session. I hadn't saved it purposefully for her. I was just too full to finish it, so I wrapped it in a paper napkin and put it in my bag. When I got home, my brain spotted a kid, said, "Hey, kids like cookies," and instructed my arm to hand it over. There was no other thought to it.

Katie crammed it into her mouth and said, "Mmnks." More than half of the cookie was still on the outside of her mouth. I'm telling you. Giant cookie.

I saw Katie's backpack on the kichen table and asked if she'd done her homework.

"Nope." The dogs were licking the floor beneath Katie, scrounging for crumbs.

"Do you want me to help you with it?" I asked as I unzipped her backpack.

"Yes!" She climbed onto a dining chair, took another bite, and said, "Let's do my homework!"

"Honey, you can't eat your cookie while you're doing homework. It would be too easy to get cookie stains on it. Why don't we wait til you done with the cookie and then you can go wash your hands." I was sorting through her papers. Pre-motherhood I had no idea how much I'd adore looking over her school work. During my single years, I'd been to New York and San Francisco where I saw great art at the Met, both MOMAs and the Whitney. Tears swelled and I literally caught my breath the first time I walked into the van Gogh room at the Met. Now I catch my breath over kindergarten circles and triangles and flowers and suns and I am no less amazed.

"That's ok," Katie folded the cookie back into the napkin, got up, and set it on the counter, far enough back that our half-Great Pyrenese dog Earl couldn't counter surf it. "I'll go wash my hands now so we can do my homework!"


What kind of kid chooses homework over a cookie? Especially the same kid who has asked for Pop Tarts every day for breakfast for the last two weeks.

So I watched her trace letters and read her book and color pictures on her assignment, answering "Uh huh" to every "Look, Mama. Watch this!"

I understand some of it has to do with her enthusiasm for school and wanting to impress me, but I also think Katie just doesn't realize what a big honkin deal cookies are because they are not generally banished from her diet.

I went to school with several friends who always wanted to hang out at our house because we always had pop and junk food. They would come over and start shoving Little Debbies snack cakes into their mouths and refilling their pop glasses til the 2-liter was empty. I'd get so impatient with them. Come on, guys, let's go play hide and seek or kickball or go down to the creek and look at the crawdads. But no, I had to wait for their binge fest to cease.

I noticed whenever I'd go over to one of their houses, they never had any pop or junk food. Some of them had fruit in a bowl on the table. Which was fine with me. I love apples. And better yet, they're transportable. I really just wanted to get started playing "Life" anyway. Or maybe "Clue." But "Life" was my favorite. Or shoot some hoops or roller skate or something.

My disinterest in food disappeared when I developed anorexia as a tween. Subsequently, my interest in kickball, roller skating, and "Life" simultaneously waned. I was sent to a child psychologist. Turns out I was afraid of growing up. I didn't particularly like what I saw was in store for me as a woman. I discovered that skin and bones equaled no breasts and no periods, no curves and sexually suggestive stares and comments from older men.

I struggled off and on with disordered eating most of my life. But I don't blame my parents for letting me eat junk food and drink pop. When I stopped eating, I stopeed eating everything. It wasn't an effort to eliminate so-called "bad" foods from my body. I had posttraumatic stress disorder triggered by sexual abuse as a young child, and it led me to want to control my own body by what food I put into it. I felt so powerful when I could go an entire day eating under 500 calories.

It's taken a long time, many years of not just anorexia, but bulimia, excessive exercise, binging and other forms of restrictive eating such as vegetarianism, but now I feel like food no longer controls me.

The book that helped me get here is by the ironically named Dr. Linda Bacon, Heath at Every Size®. Her advice is to "eat a variety of real foods, primarily plants" and "move your body in pleasurable ways." It's so simple: develop trust in your own body.

It's common to hand down psychological hiccups to our children. To prepare myself, before she was even born, I vowed to raise my child without an eating disorder. I know. I'm an ambitious parent. Some parents will do anything to make sure their daughters make the cheerleading squad. I'll do anything to get my daughter through high school psychologically unscarred.

So pretty much when Katie started feeding herself, we let her eat what she wants. Pretty much. No caffeine other than in chocolate. No adult beverages, I wish I could say obviously but sadly some parents do not think this is an obvious regulation for five year olds.

We explain to Katie that eating too much candy can make you sick. But we also tell her that too much of anything can also make you sick. We give her a plate of food. If she eats it, she eats it. If she doesn't, she doesn't. I don't offer to make her something else to eat because I don't believe in wasting food just to eat something else. But for the most part, we're pretty laissez-faire with our daughter's feelings of hunger and satiety. I want her to trust her own body and respond to its cues. I want her to eat from the full smorgasbord of life with few limitations.

Sure she loves cookies like most kids. Like most people, regardless of age. But she doesn't always want them. She doesn't give up other pleasurable things to stuff her face full of off-limit treats. Food doesn't control her.

She's asked me for broccoli for breakfast. It was chicken nuggests the other day. Some days she eats just the butter off her toast. Other times she asks for cottage cheese, black olives and pears. Sometimes she asks for Funyans. Other times, baby carrots. And of course, pancakes and eggs.

So it didn't surprise me too much when Katie set aside the cookie to do homework with me. But my inner-anorexic eleven year old, isolating herself in her bedroom as she calculates her daily calorie intake--she sure looked up and smiled, sighing in relief that everthing would be ok.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys: Vegetarians and Omnivores

I'd like to start regularly blogging different topics built around the same theme: Good Guys and Bad Guys exist only in fiction.

It's the main theme of my unpublished novel I've been trying to sling to literary agents lately. You know how when something's on your mind it seems like everything you encounter reminds you of it? It's usually pretty trivial stuff, like when you sell your car because you think it's a pos about to fall apart and then notice the same make and model driving around everywhere which starts you second guessing your financial decision. Or it can lean more toward the profound, like when your brother dies and out of nowhere every radio station is playing one of the songs that reminds you of him and although usually shy about singing, you're compelled to sing them all, anytime or anywhere, your voice turned up to 11.

So trying to sell my manuscript has my mind on moral ambiguity. So does trying to parent a five year old. It's quite developmentally normal for kids her age to go through a very rigid social norms phase. I thought having me for a mother would make her question everything, but I find instead she mostly just questions me. Which I know is normal. It's just that "normal" to me has always represented something stiffling. To Katie I think it represents making sense of a world that she hasn't yet figured out is senseless.

It seems my number one parental role lately is reminding my daughter of the ambiguous nature of life. This morning Katie woke me up to tell me her dream about being chased by a crocodile. She was quite proud because in the dream she saved herself by running so fast the crocodile couldn't snatch her up and eat her.

Just as I was drifting off into parental nirvana, thinking about my courageous daughter who dreams of saving herself instead of relying on a prince charming to rescue her, Katie asked me, "Why do crocodiles like to eat people?"

I returned to earth. "Because they're hungry."

"Not because they're bad guys?" Katie asked in in sweet little voice.

"No, crocodiles don't eat people very often," I assured her. "But when they do it's not because they're bad. It's just because they're hungry. They eat other animals too. Just like we eat chicken and pigs and fish and you and Daddy eat cows. We're not bad guys. It's just the way of the world."

"But we don't eat dogs," Katie smiled at her argument.

"Some people do."

Katie stopped smiling and walked away as she often does when I play devil's advocate with her. I hope my bluntness with her isn't something worth adding coins to her Freudian piggy bank.

After she got ready for school, Katie came into the kitchen and found me spraying vinegar on the army of ants that decided to sneak attack our counters overnight.

"Why the ants keep coming into our house?!" Katie asked as she pointed out ants I had missed.

"Because they're looking for food and water." I nodded my head toward the sink filled with dirty dishes.

Katie stompped her foot and said, "They need to find it outside. Not in our house."

I smiled and said, "Yeah, the poor little critters just don't know any better. They look for food and water where they can find it. They don't mean to contaminate our house."

Katie watched me quietly for a bit, her forehead wrinkled, then she cried out, "You're killing them."

"Yeah." I sighed. "I don't like killing them. But I don't like them in my house even more."

Another few quiet moments passed. Then Katie slumpped her shoulders and stated, "I don't want to eat chickens anymore, Mama."

"Why not, Sweetie?" I asked as I sprayed more vinegar around the counters.

"Because they're sweet little creatures and I don't want to eat them."

Katie has recently been on a "Chicken Run" kick and I suspect the anthropomorphic chickens are influencing her new self-directed diet restrictions. I was similarly influenced by pop culture when I decided to stop eating meat when I was a teenager because my idols Morrissey, Michael Stipe and k.d. lang were touting the virtues of vegetarianism.

I went through spurts of vegetarianism throughout high school, but it wasn't until New Year's Eve 1988 that I decided to quit eating meat for good. I didn't stick to it. I still haven't had any beef since December 31, 1988. I simply don't like it and I'm concerned about all the methane gas those sweet farty beasts produce. But I've wolfed down crispy pieces of bacon, juicy chicken breasts, or one of Will's delicious fish dishes regularly since sometime in 2005 when I turned all Stevie Wonder superstitious and decided to start eating meat again. I read somewhere that adding more meat to your diet helps with fertility, and I was desperate to have a baby. I also read somewhere that being a vegetarian helps with fertility, but I had already tried that.

I happened to get pregnant later that year, but I think it had more to do with the Clomid and Estrace than the added animal protein in my diet. Who knows? Who cares? At the time I was willing to try most anything and I'm glad I did because something I tried brought me Katie.

But still, even after Katie's birth I never went back to strict vegetarianism. I don't eat meat every day, but I no longer make a big deal out of it. Nowadays the trendy term is flexitarian, which I guess I am, but really, I'm just hungry and paying more attention to my body's cravings than I used to in my more ascetic past.

I read once that sexual abuse survivors, which I am, often become anorexic, which I did, and then move on to vegetarianism, which I did. Figures, I'm so freakin' normal. The theory is that having control of your own body robbed from you through sexual abuse leads you to want to control your body in other ways. The food we eat or don't eat, at least for those of us in wealthier societies, is one of the easiest things we can control in our daily lives. Kind of a hunger strike against an uncontrollable world.

But through years of therapy and just general wisdom aquired over the years, I realize total control isn't an achievable goal. Or even a desirable one. So if an occasional strip of bacon makes my tummy rumble, I indulge my cravings.

When I was younger, I hate to admit, I thought I was a morally superior person by not eating animals. Then I got dogs. Dogs really aren't suited for true animal lovers. My sweet furry kids turn into vicious hunters when released into our back yard, often killing baby squirrels and offering them at my feet as if these dead babies were gold, frankincense or myrrh and I was Dog.

My dogs are not bad guys. They don't think, "Dog, I want to tear that little creature to shreds because it will make me feel more powerful and fierce." They also tear into my trash and I don't assume it's due to a power struggle. They're hungry. They're freaking dogs. That's what dogs do.

So my ideas about human beings' eating habits have evolved thanks to observing my sweet, yet killer pooches. Yeah, it would be cool if more people in industrialized nations who can go to the local market and buy loads of protein-rich, meatless foods would limit their consumption of animals. Yet I understand that humans have evolved to be omnivorous, just like man's best friend. I no longer assume people who eat animals do so out of viciousness. They're hungry. They're human beings. That's what humans do.

Not that I'm letting our nation's factory farms off the hook. The way many animals are treated is ghastly. But now I think perhaps the best way to help those animals is not to quit eating them in some kind of hunger strike, but to try to pass legislation that enforces that animals intended for food live in conditions more suited toward their natural habitat, free range chickens, cows eating grass and not corn, fish caught one by one and not in giant nets that also kill dolphins and other creatures.

Part of an evolving personhood is becoming aware of and accepting of the incredible ambiguity of life. So I'll let my five year old eat or not eat whatever animals she wants, for whatever reason. I know some day she'll figure out that what we put into our mouths to nourish our bodies has less to do with goodness or badness and more to do with the the natural way of the world.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Venus Envy

Although it appears as if those ancient sculptors used my body as a model for their venus figurines, I'm not all that fertile.

You'd think my mom would nag for more grandchildren, but she doesn't thankfully. Katie's my biggest critic. She's been jonesin' for a sibling for years. Pretty much since she could form complete sentences she's been begging me to have another baby. I was the youngest child and spent the first five years of my life with two brothers and two sisters living in the house with me and my parents. One by one they grew up and left. By the time I was twelve, it was just me and my parents. My unhappy parents. My parents who when I was twenty-two finally got divorced but should have when I was at least twelve. At least Katie's parents actually like each other.

But I know how miserable it feels to be an only child. I empathize with Katie's longing for another sibling. I remember elbowing my mom, pointing at the TV and saying, "Look, Mom! We should adopt that kid" whenever the local news show had a featured ward of the state up for adoption. I really just wanted someone to play with. My friends were fine. But they had to go home at some point. I wanted a perpetual sleepover. Anything so I didn't have to listen to my mom and dad, both accountants, talk about debits and credits on and on to infinity.

I know how boring it is to be a kid stuck around just grownups. I reminded myself of that feeling when Katie punched me in the gut with this comment yesterday when it was just the two of us in the house:

Katie: "I wish some kids were here."
Me: "Why?"
Katie: "Because then I'd have someone to play with and I wouldn't have to listen to boring adults talk to me."

I was able to conceive Katie, after trying unsuccessfully for thirteen months, with the help of the drugs Clomid and Estrace. And the best drug of all, William Carleton. It only took six months of taking those drugs for my body to finally produce an ovum frisky enough to want to get it on with one of Will's kabillions of sperm.

I told myself I'd never have a lonely only. I would never do that to my child since I knew how it felt. So we started trying to get pregnant when Katie was six months old, when my doctor said it would be safe for my body to try again. That was when I was thirty-six. I'm forty now, fast approaching forty-one with no bun in my oven despite the appearance of my growing belly.

Katie's nearly given up begging for a brother or sister now that she's in school and spends three hours a day with kids her age. But now she's asked both Will and me on separate occasions if she can start going to all-day kindergarten instead of being "a half-day kid."

It costs $300 per month to be an "all-day kid." We can't afford that, and we make too much money to quality for a reduced rate tuition. And yes, it's a public school. Damn budget cuts, living in a conservative Midwestern state.

I told Katie if I can get a book deal and start making some money off my writing we'll be able to pay for her to be an "all-day kid". Her eyes beamed and she blurted out instantly, "Will you tell my teacher tomorrow I can be an all-day kid?"

I had to explain to her that it takes a long time to get a book deal. "You know that author who wrote 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' and 'The Cat in the Hat', Dr. Seuss? His books were rejected hundreds of times before someone decided to pay him for his work."

"That's gonna take forever!" Katie's face had the same look of despair as when I told her we're probably going to have to wait a couple more years to have enough money to adopt a child.

It blows being subfertile and unpublished. I'm filled with desire to create, both another child and stories, but I evidently don't have complete control in what happens with my ability to create and share with the world. The Michelle Duggars and the Danielle Steels of the world make it seem easy. I have Venus envy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Kissing Disease

I remember when I was in about fourth grade the worst thing a person could imagine having was mono: the kissing disease. Friends at recess discussed how they heard that someone's sister had to stay in bed for a month! No playing outside. No TV. Not even books. She was so sick she had to just lie there and do nothing.

Fourth graders do not abide doing nothing.

A few months ago after a routine blood test I got a note from my doctor saying that I did not currently but had sometime in the past had mono.


How can you have mono and not know it? Was one of those times I dragged myself to the shrink to adjust my meds or get back on my meds or try a different type of cognative therapy, thinking I felt exhausted and overwhelmed because of my posttraumatic stress disorder, actually when I had mono? The kissing disease? I'm a freakin' forty year old married mother. Mothers don't get mono, do they?

I have been kissing my husband for over nine years, so you can only imagine how many times our lips have been exposed to each others' pathogens. How romantic. But I still can't imagine Will giving me mono. That's something only unmarried people give to each other. Married people give each other vacuums and drills. And I don't mean the naughty kind.

But just now, as I passed Katie's bedroom door that's cracked a couple of inches the way she likes when she sleeps, I thought of who I probably got it from. Katie! My kissalicious kid. My kid who is currently napping voluntarily. In other words, she's sick.

Ok, I don't really think my kid gave me mono, and if so, yuck, but I do think she's picked up a bug from school, and most likely there was kissing involved.

She is the kissingest kid I have ever met. The day she was born, I remember the nurse carrying her over her shoulder to me, saying, "You've got a snuggly one, Mama." And she is. This kid knows nothing of no affection.

And there's this boyfriend of her's at school...Aiden. I've seen those two pecking each other's cheeks. Isn't it odd how such a loving act can make you sick?

Here's an e-kiss to you, my friend. Be well.

"Gay Cop, Gay Marine It Gets Better": Porno or PSA?

When my eyes stumbled upon the title of this video, for a split second I thought I had accidentally googled YouPorn instead of YouTube. Porno, no. PSA, yes. What a wonderful service to the public it is, too. Real adults sharing their real stories to help real kids feel good and normal and healthy just the way they are. Dan Savage is brilliant. I love his books The Kid, The Commitment, and Skipping Toward Gomorrah. I love his commentary on Real Time With Bill Maher and This American Life. But he's outdone himself with this It Gets Better Project. By starting this project, he is saving the lives of so many kids. And educating us that humans come in a diverse array of genders and sexual inclinations. Just as we're tall, short, fat, skinny, dark haired, light haired, and everything in between, some of us feel like men, some of us feel like women, some of us feel in between, some of us love men, some of us love women, some of us love both, and everything in between. What a beautiful spectrum of humanity are we.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


A part of me loves blogging because I can mix my thoughts and interests together using various forms of art. Writing, showing videos, recommending music, sharing photos, all telling a story together. It's a beautiful artform. Underappreciated I think due to its status as often unpaid work. Just because van Gogh only sold one painting his entire life doesn't mean he wasn't an artist.

The other part of me loves blogging because I love the instant gratification that accompanies a real-time publishing device. I'm too bashful to perform on stage, but I love having people comment on my blog performance. I hear the applause in that comment and that "like" I see you posted on my blog.

And yeah, I guess I am comparing my blog to van Gogh's paintings. We're all artists. All of us has something creative within no matter what format is used to express it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stellar Mix Tape

I had stars in my eyes when I first met Will. Which is appropriate. If he had been born a girl, his mom wanted to name him Celeste. It suits his celestial nature.

I wanted to name Katie "Stella" but Will nixed the idea. He didn't want people screaming "Steeeeelllllaaaaa!" at her her whole life. Actually, that's not the entire reason. We used to go camping at the annual bluegrass festival in Winfield KS. Every night we'd be in our tent, making out, drinking beers, laughing, talking. And every night, in the background we'd hear our temporary neighbors inside their tents doing the same. And beyond that, about every ten minutes or so, we'd hear some young man scream, "Steeeeelllllaaaaaa!"

This was a hippie bluegrass festival, not a Tennessee Williams film fest. Why were people screaming "Stella" at regular intervals?

Will told me the legend, and now I will tell you. Evidently one year some college guy brought a blow up doll as a joke. Oh, I should mention. At Winfield when you camp by stage five, the thing to do is walk around the dirt road that encircles the encampment. It's like mardi gras for the midwest. People carring their drinks, their guitars and mandolins and banjos and harmonicas, and just wandering around, stopping here and there to jam with some folks, then rolling on, keeping the energy going.

Well, one year, the guy who brought the blow up doll decided it would be fun if he and his buddies brought Stella along for their drunken stumble around the loop. Stella couldn't play any instruments, so she was pretty lame at jams, but, like a giant floaty ball at spectator sporting events, she became the life of the party as she was tossed from partier to partier throughout the night. The next morning, Stella was gone. No one knows what happened to her. Not even one square inch of her plastic skin was ever recovered.

So that night, College Guy and his buddies drank again, this time mourning the loss of their poor, deflated Stella. And then they began wandering the campground, round and round the loop, taking turns shouting, "Stella!"

Each successive year, campers keep up the tradition of calling out Stella's name, late at night. Midwestern boys calling out for their plastic Lorelei.

And so, yeah, my husband didn't think it would be very appropriate to name our daughter after a missing blow up doll. No matter what a stellar name it is.

It's not just spacy names I like but spacy songs too. I like to close my eyes and listen to them. It feels like I'm floating in space.

Want more stellar tunes? Slide your eyeballs just slightly down, down, over to the left, yep, right here: