Roller coaster 

I do, sometimes, wonder if I’m mentally unhinged. 

Well, not mentally. Emotionally unhinged. I’m pretty okay mentally. 

But on a functional level, I am a professional maker of molehills into sizeable hikes. I am wont to speak in hyperbole, hypothesize in worst case scenarios, and react in outsized proportions. 


see the moon? huge vs. tiny is about perspective, of which I have little

But my feelings are real, so I try not to tell myself that they’re wrong. 

Even though they’re totally wrong. 

Today included a talk with my son about behavior I anticipate will lead to a career in crime. I talked to colleagues about a mass layoff that begins tomorrow. I spoke with a pediatrician who, in filling in for our regular doctor, actually laughed at my concerns and asked me what’s wrong with me. And I talked the babysitter of the ledge when my kids were fighting about the packing material that came in a box delivered (and opened) last week. 

I should be exhausted. And grouchy. 

I’m not. For now, there a cat on my lap, a book within reach, a cup of hot water, and a quiet house. 

So is it a mood disorder that I’m not stressed right now? That I notice the calm and warmth of cat and steaming mug? That I’m willing to forget the day’s roller coaster? 


Maybe not. 


Worst call ever

Last night, I received the worst phone call I’ve had, thus far, in my life. 

The call telling me about the deaths of my grandparents and my friend were devastating, but expected. Those calls upended me in ways that haven’t righted.

But last night’s call has to be remedied. Fixed. 


half moon bay tree corridor

I was blindsided and sickened tonight by a call that detailed how my son hurt another child. On purpose. While they were playing. 

Not out of anger. Not in retaliation. I’m not yet sure why… he was already sleeping when I heard the awful story. So now I get to hear why he did what he did. 

And I have rather low expectations, because what I’ve heard so far is deeply upsetting. From sources I trust. With proof. 

There aren’t many posts online when you search “what do I do if my child is a bully?” People are, it seems, terrified to talk about what it means to be the one who harbors the maladjustment that leads to aggressive behavior in children. 

Yes, I tend to make mountains out of molehills. But I have several friends whom I call and ask for sanity checks. My parenting sanity check was not willing to place this on the innocent to sociopath scale. But we both understood it’s much closer to the latter. 

My preliminary searches suggest low self esteem. I knew that part. Lack of conflict resolution skills. I don’t think so, from what I’ve seen. Role models who coerce or shame or intimidate?

I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want anyone to read this post. I sure as hell don’t want anyone to talk to me about this post. 

I barely slept last night, my churning stomach nauseating me awake every time I managed to relax and forget. 

I have to go have the talk soon. His dad is coming over so we can present a united front. 

I might throw up. 


Big Plans

This weekend will be the first time the boys spend two days with their dad at his new apartment.

Oh, nothing. Just totally obsessed with clouds lately.

Oh, nothing. Just totally obsessed with clouds lately.

Though I’ve been slowly preparing them each day (today we talked about picking out a new, special toothbrush that will be at Daddy’s always so they never have to worry about forgetting something as important as dental hygiene), my own reality of two days alone snuck up on me, and I forgot to write out all my lists of how I’ll fill my time while the boys are away. For the first time. Two whole days. Not at a conference, not working 7am-7pm at a cafe so they can have time with their dad in my house. Alone, in my own space, full of hope and potential and projects. And guilt.

Here are my tentative plans.

Hours 1-3
Cry, eat popcorn, and watch an old John Hughes movie. I’m guessing Pretty in Pink but don’t be surprised if I report back that it was Some Kind of Wonderful.

Hours 4-12
Sleep the sleep of a mom who hasn’t slept a full night in her own house in 9 years without waking to the sound of a child crying, vomiting, seeking affection, or sleeptalking.

Hour 13
Wake in a panic that the kids aren’t home. Cry while making tea, then go for a run.

Hours 14-19
Cry. Or read a book without interruption. Or both. Resist urge to text boys’ dad, repeating mantra “He will text if something is wrong. Everything is fine.”

Hour 20
Make feeble attempt to declutter. Find something delicious that doesn’t need to be cooked. Eat it. Shake head ruefully while walking back and forth between the rooms of the house, daunted by all the cleaning and decluttering that really should happen. Debate crying again, but calculate the ratio of tears to popcorn and reconsider.

Hour 21
Do one million pushups and sit-ups to make up for ten years of forgetting. Or have more popcorn, maybe, while building a better Netflix queue.

Hours 22-27
Bounce between reading, pacing, and playing mind games to keep myself from texting.

Hours 28-36
Sleep, full of guilt that I’m enjoying uninterrupted sleep.

Hour 37
Wake, convinced there will be a reassuring text. Feel disappointed, then angry, then sad that there isn’t. Cry while making tea, then go for a run.

Hours 38-44
Plan to cook the week’s meals but forget while binge watching Orange is the New Black. Or Parks and Rec. Or Dr. Who. Definitely not season one of Glee. Again.

Hour 45-47
Freak out that I’ve wasted the weekend on trivial things, resolve to put together dozens of pinterest-inspired kids’ crafts projects to welcome the boys with full attention and adoration. Get caught up surfing and reading about Pluto and patient parenting and domestic hate-crime mass murders. Bounce predictably between buoyant and depressed.

Hour 48
Open the door to tired, happy, filthy, hungry children who don’t particularly want to hear my stories about the fall of civilization and former planets, and who wonder why the place looks exactly the same as it did when they left.

Hours 49-50
Feed, bathe, read to, and adore the children.

Hour 51
Make plans to use my time wisely in two weeks when they go again. Then cry that they’re fine, I’m a wreck, and there aren’t enough hours left to watch The Breakfast Club.



On Close Calls and Near Misses

My children’s fondest aims for a long day with no school is to go with Mom to work. 

Mostly because I work in cafes with a computer. And my favorite cafes have both donuts and burritos. Life is good. 

So Tuesday morning the darling five year old packed his briefcase with Richard Scarry, notebook and pen, and a pair of matchbox trucks. For work. He settled in next to me, in the place I know way too well but am very productive. He waited for his bagel, and stared at all the MacBooks around us. 

My coffee had just cooled to perfect temperature when the neighbor to my right needed more space. I moved my coffee and laptop a bit and offered to help Butter take the dust jacket off his book. 

He struggled and his hand slipped. My stainless steel bottle tipped and fell. Twenty ounces of 110 degree coffee and frothy almond milk flooded into my keyboard. 

(Shut it, environmentalists. Dairy takes just as much water to produce, and almond milk is what I want for eleventy reasons, none of which are your beeswax.)

All the Mac users gasped as the coffee fell, pooling in my keyboard. I gasped. And grabbed a towel from Charley, the mom of three who had just made my son’s bagel. I sopped and wiped coffee. I checked in with other customers to make sure we hadn’t ruined their electronics. I tilted my laptop to the side to release another eight ounces, swirling and perfect, onto the table. 

I smiled at my son, who looked worried or shocked; I was too horrified to note which. 

“Whoa. That is a big spill. Are you hurt? I’m not hurt. These people aren’t hurt. My laptop is probably broken. But we can go to a computer mechanic to find out. Come with me, please.”

In the car we talked about how some things cost a lot of money, but they’re still just things. That being healthy and together is more important than my work, even though I would now have more work to do. I told him when things break it doesn’t matter as long as we have each other.

And I did the math in my head: taxes already submitted. Two client deadlines and a conference paper submitted the night before. A week since last backup. Copies of all photos on SD cards and backup drives. 

I wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t scared or mad. I was grateful. 

Butterbean started to say something, then changed his mind. 

“It’s okay,” I said. “You can tell me anything.”

“Well, I’m a little glad your computer broke. Because I want you to stop working.”

Should have seen this talk coming. I never, ever used the computer when Peanut was little. If he was awake, I focused on him. Not true of this little man. This one gets full attention when he asks for it. But he really does have to ask. 

“Yeah,” I said. “I understand that I’ve been working a lot lately and you don’t like me to ignore you. But the nice thing about my work right now is I know it’s coming, so I’m going to work away from home and a babysitter will play with you and pay attention to you. And then, when I’m home, I will be really home. And with you. And not my computer.”

He seemed satisfied. 

The computer is fried, but the data is intact. The tech says he’s never seen anything like it. Clearly submerged in coffee, but retrievable information. 

Hello, metaphor for my life right now. 

Similarly drowning, but similarly available to recall the important stuff. 

Kind of nailing it, despite being a hot mess. 


Super Fly

As Peanut developed his birthday present wish list this year, he got engaged in a writing project in class. They’re working on nonfiction writing, and are researching to become experts, then writing a book with catchy chapter titles. It’s incredible to watch.

Peanut chose to cultivate expertise in carnivorous plants. We worked together on how to group the information. Should Venus flytraps be their own chapter? Should all pitcher plants be their own chapter? Should the plant types come up only incidentally as he writes about the ways in which carnivorous plants lure, catch, and digest their prey?

One morning, on a hike, a lovely friend asked Peanut what he was working on in school. And as he explained it, another friend turned to me and asked if we knew about the local carnivorous plant nursery. What in the holy awesome?!…No, we didn’t.

Then that night, a brainy science-y toy catalog came in the mail. Peanut leafed through and found a carnivorous plant terrarium. What in the amazing coincidence?!….Cool!

I didn’t know you can just go to Sonoma County and buy a Venus flytrap and a sundew. I didn’t know you could have them in and around your home. Neither, it turns out, did my expert. He thought they were magical tropical rarities, not local realities.

So I offered to take him and to buy some plants for his birthday. He lit up like a dancer allowed backstage at the Nutcracker.

The guy who toured us around the nursery got his first bug-devouring plant when he was 11. And he still has it.

Peanut is 9. And now is the proud owner of a pitcher plant, sundew, and Venus flytrap. Not the WKRP kind. The real kind.

He even talked me into getting his brother a carnivorous plant. Because he’s awesome that way.


pitcher plant half full of insect devouring acid. Now living on my desk in case of trolls.


Small people mining the yard for flytrap prey. Together. Without fighting. Nothing brings brothers together like sacrificing insects to plants.


The three Musketeers, saving us from wayward aphids one drop of acid at a time.


Venus Flytrap. Note the shriveled, black head at about 4:00 on this plant. The heads can only close 2-3 times, and if they don’t catch something tasty, they go black. All heads go black, the plant dies. Somewhat like the dreams of academics.


Sundew. All those droplets are acid. D. capillaris, for those who care. Pink sundew.


Sundew for the brother. Cape sundew. D. capensis. Proud devourer of six aphids this afternoon. Score!


Brain Training (part 1)

After years of reading about the benefits of retraining my brain with meditation, after checking out from the library the book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story, and after realizing how hectic my days, thoughts, and to-do list are, I finally tried to meditate.
[this is me: wrought iron vulture that’s lovable to only a quirky few. And the flowers my boys added last week are my hope for meditation: a little sweetening that doesn’t change the vulture as much as give it some soft contrast.]

[Yes, that’s a Halloween pumpkin. From early October. Get over it.]

I wanted to meditate in earnest this time. Not just writing it on a list, not trying to do a teaser session in the four seconds before I fall asleep at night. Rather, actually sitting comfortably in the kitchen after tucking in the boys, closing my eyes, and watching my thoughts without judging them.

It took several minutes to settle. I noticed sounds and tried to let them go, then wanted to get up. I noticed my wanting to get up and tried to let it go, and wanted to write about it. I noticed my desire to write and tried to let it go, and tried to make a mental list of things I should do in addition to write. I noted the compulsion to list how many things I’m not doing. I let the list go. And I breathed. The list came back and I noted that I tend to repeat lists so I can remember them. I noticed how I was forcing breath. I noticed my breath settle.

And then a loud crash lit every nerve in my body on fire with the surety that someone had broken through a window and was going to murder all three of us. I screamed at the absolute top of my volume range and forced my eyes open.

I was just in time to see the cat finish his leap on top of the fridge a few feet from me, creating a cascade of holiday cards and homemade magnets to the floor. Jackass. Abjectly terrified, with a sore throat and adrenaline absolutely shaking every muscle in my body, I thought that, with the murder threat alleviated I had to go check on my son. I had screamed loud enough that I was sure I’d awakened him.

So I ran up the stairs and whispered as I hurried down the hall and into his room, “It’s mommy, honey; I’m sorry about the loud noise.”

“What happened?” he asked.

“The cat jumped on the fridge and scared me. I was trying to rest my thoughts and my brain and he freaked me out.”

“I thought he had jumped on you and scratched you.”

“Nope. I’m okay. Nothing is hurt and nobody is hurt and I’m sorry I woke you.”

“I was awake already. I was trying to figure out who is tricking who in Harry Potter.”

“Who is tricking whom is a good question, buddy. You go to sleep and I’ll go try to meditate again.”

“You should, mom. We do it in school and it’s really nice to connect with your breath.”

“Okay, buddy.”

There was no way I’d close my eyes again that evening. I had things to do and wasn’t interested in associating meditation with terror.

I’m sure I’ll try it again soon. Maybe not at night. Not in the kitchen. And not with cats nearby.

In his defense, this is what happens to the mediation-murdering cat when he tries to meditate.





Nightmare of Middle Age

I woke up last night in a panic. I’d had a nightmare in which I knew I had exactly two days to move. The current house had to be empty and we had to be somewhere else in 48 hours. But I had no plan, had packed nothing, and knew not where we could go.

I don’t remember many details, but I remember Spouse trying to get me to answer some questions. We had either reconciled or finished all the divorce paperwork—I don’t know which, but something was capital-F Final about our relationship—and he wanted to know what my plans were.

“I don’t even know what state to move to,” I recall keening. In the dream, I couldn’t even process all the possibilities: there were no choices except homelessness and utter hopelessness.

And a cheerful new year to you, too.


The longest I have lived in a house is five years. It was the home Spouse and I bought just before we got married. We painted and decorated and improved. We devoted every moment for 40% of that time to an adorable little Peanut whose presence made love more important than location. And we lost all our equity selling it in 2008.

The second longest I lived in one place was during high school. My mom moved us just before I started freshman year, so I could go to the best public school in the area. When I left for college I’d been in that house exactly four years.

In a few months, I will have been in this current rental for four years. We moved on Butterbean’s first birthday. It’s been a rollercoaster, and I’ve been trying to find a different, less expensive place to live for almost two years. But this is the house both boys have considered home for most of their lives.

I don’t know what the dream is trying to tell me. I don’t believe in dream analysis. I believe the unconscious mind combines the days’ and weeks’ images into a new story which is sometimes enjoyable and sometime terrifying. Either way, it’s fiction. The stress is real, but the story is fiction. And I tried to remember that when I awoke. “Just get a job,” I told my waking self as the homeless/hopeless panic swelled. I assessed the level of light outside and the lack of small children’s voices, and I went back to sleep.

I’ve always somehow thought that moving would solve problems. At last count, I’ve moved 26 times in my life. Feeling uncomfortable? Pack up everything and move. Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? It’s probably the apartment; change it. Scared about money and the future? Get a new address to distract you.

I’m managed this urge, somewhat, as an adult, by rearranging furniture. But the furniture is heavy and I’m less reasonable in my dreams. So it’s time to move.

I thought about this on a long run, the hours when I ditch music and podcasts and children and distractions to just let my thoughts wander. I tried to gauge how my life is going: my parenting and career and status as an engaged citizen and human. And I found a big problem.

The few metrics we have for being successful adults are not useful measures of successful human-ing.

I like data on how I’m doing. Good or bad, I prefer being measured. I’ve always loved tests and grades and competition with metrics, because with numbers I know who I am. Without them, I’m lost. I need to know how badly I suck (or, rarely, how awesome I am) based entirely on extrinsic factors. I’m not kidding and I’m not being hyperbolic. I went through a long spell after college of measuring my worth by the numbers on the scale and my paycheck. I don’t enjoy admitting it, but I feel lost without rankings to give me a sense of success or failure.

The idea that I want to be measured…by grades, by the pound, by test score, by winner’s medal color…is problematic in adulthood, because there are very few quantifiable situations in which I’m compared to others. And I find that I’m failing at those which remain into middle age.

Happiness has no numbers attached to it. Nor does successful parenting, career prowess, or intelligent uses of time. I refuse to be measured by whether my kids eat the food I cook. I won’t look at the scale anymore, nor do I care what size I wear.

So what’s left to measure?
Run pace. (Awful, and getting worse the less sleep I get.)
Bank account. (Sob.)
Number of books finished this year. (No idea. One, maybe?)
Retirement account. (Fetal position.)
Number of friends. (Decent. They’re probably pretending, though.)
Salary. (I’m a consultant and this varies obscenely.)
Current client projects. (It’s December. Everything dries up.)
Books published. (…)

So how do I do I decide what to do if I don’t have a metric on which to base a decision? And if I use money and pages read to determine my worth, I’m a miserable human. But that can’t be true.

I need a calculation. I am ___% a success. I’m pretty sure the number is low. But if it’s not as bad as I assume, maybe I’ll feel better. And I could chart a path for improvement. To get better I should…what? Move? Begin a new career? Get a new job in current career? Find a new roommate? Move to a new geographic location? Cultivate a new hobby? Get back on stage?

I want some way to know if I’m doing okay. Fair to middling? Exceedingly well?

Relative to what? Younger me? Last year’s me? This year’s you? That guy down the street? Across town? Across the country? On the other side of the world? This is a stupid game and I shouldn’t be playing.

My experience of joy and of paralyzing fear, motivation, and sorrow have nothing to do with comparison or scores or rankings. But I feel someone should be showing me numbers. Evaluating. Measuring.

I need a grade. A score. A ranking.

42. It’s the answer to life, the Universe, and everything, right?

Doesn’t feel as though 42 is the answer. So I guess it’s time to fake it until I make it. Or ask what the question is, rather than what the answer is.

The little guy's favorite position is entwined. Here he's on my lap, tightly hooking his leg around mine. He does the same at night. Wraps legs around legs or arms around arms or fingers in hair. He needs to be inseparable. I'm grateful he needs to physically hold me hostage.

Nausea before gratitude

There are many things in my life for which to be thankful. And I have to focus hard to find them right now, through a cloud of nausea. Because this seemed like a reasonably good day, but it went downhill fast.

And then again, this is not a particularly good day in hindsight. I befuddled priorities, didn’t listen well when colleagues spoke, got only minimal exercise, and didn’t play with my kids as much as I would have liked. I’m grateful I recognize those failings so I can do better next time, and I’m grateful I have that chance.

I may not be a great parent, but my youngest begs for lettuce and balsamic vinegar every time we're in a store with a salad bar. I'm grateful for his patience with spring mix.

I may not be a great parent, but my youngest begs for lettuce and balsamic vinegar every time we’re in a store with a salad bar. I’m grateful for his patience with spring mix.

This is not a particularly good evening in my parenting, and though the boys were quite pleasant together today, they weren’t at all nice on a phone call to grandparents, then they were nasty to each other at bedtime. I’m grateful that I told them, each time they were playing well, that I noticed their kindness; I’m grateful that their dad was over for dinner so he could help me separate them when the little one turned South for the evening. I’m grateful for the opportunity to try again tomorrow, for I naively believe that if I focus on the positive and give them tools to minimize the negative, they might some day make honorable citizens. I’m grateful for that hope, even if it’s naive.

Last night was not a particularly good opportunity for sleeping. Though I was overjoyed to have the older child ask for company at night, he is a raging inferno, and I spent most of the night awake and hotter than hell. And we were joined in the middle of the night by his little brother, a walking furnace himself, who sleeps like he’s auditioning for a slasher movie. All night the two cats, who normally ignore us all and prefer each other’s company, decided that anything moving in the roastingly hot bed full of thrashing children was a plaything that needed a solid biting. And my injured shoulder still wakes me up at night, more than a month later. I’m grateful that my bed was hopping with 8,000 degree cat toys to distract me from my shoulder. What a blessing to be in the presence of my darling children as I get a free preview to menopause’s hot flashes while having my toes pierced by sharp teeth. So very grateful.

The little guy's favorite position is entwined. Here he's on my lap, tightly hooking his leg around mine. He does the same at night. Wraps legs around legs or arms around arms or fingers in hair. He needs to be inseparable. I'm grateful he needs to physically hold me hostage.

The little guy’s favorite position is entwined. Here he’s on my lap, tightly hooking his leg around mine. He does the same at night. Wraps legs around legs or arms around arms or fingers in hair. He needs to be inseparable. I’m grateful he needs to physically hold me hostage.

This is not a particularly good evening in my marital discord, and I have that adrenaline hangover that lasts long after a small disagreement when the stakes are so high. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with my parenting partner toward an ideal separation that honors our kids, and I’m hopeful that better setting expectations will help. I’m grateful I notice what a petty, impatient creature I can be, because it offers an opportunity to improve.

This is not a particularly good evening in culinary achievement. The roasted root vegetables for tomorrow are a bit underdone, and reheating in the communal oven tomorrow likely won’t bring them to the right texture; and the roasted three-color cauliflower is perfect, which means it won’t reheat well. I’m grateful for the large, joyful family who will criticize my food tomorrow, and grateful that they all think I’m a tough enough old bird that they can mock most of my decisions. I’m grateful I will have roasted leftovers to eat, all alone, in my sleeping-kids hours of self evaluation in the cold light of failure. I’m grateful that tomorrow night’s second reheating with either cure the root veg, or will help me stoke the pout flames.

but it tasted sooooo good tonight and I thought I could get away with it.

but it tasted sooooo good tonight and I thought I could get away with it.

This has not been a particularly good week in personal choices. A malaise has flummoxed food, exercise, errands, chores, and parenting choices. Not sure what’s ailing me, but I’m grateful my basic needs are covered such that I have the luxury of malaise. And misanthropy. And melancholy…I’m grateful for my melancholy. And who doesn’t love a good spell of misanthropy? I’m thankful for the opportunity to remember why I despise humanity. In fact, I’m grateful that I’ve run out of my favorite hot chocolate right before stores close for a day and then are replete with the worst of humanity for another day. I’m glad my chosen form of self-medication is unavailable for at least two days. Such scarcity will make me a better person, for which I’m grateful.

There’s no room in my privileged, blessed life to go to bed pouting about all the things I screwed up today, nor the things other people screwed up that I feel compelled to fix. I didn’t yell at my kids or my estranged husband. I didn’t buy anything stupid in an online Black Friday spree of “well, if it’s Wednesday and on sale, it must be a good deal so I need it” nonsense. I thought about it, but didn’t click the pay button. I showed up to the work day (the one in which I didn’t feel I listened hard enough) which puts me ahead of all the other colleagues who could have done the same but didn’t. And I not only changed the sheets on three beds by myself while ignoring my shoulder, I flipped and rotated the mattress on the top bunk. By myself, somewhat one-armed. I’m grateful, in that light, that I’m a superhero.


On calling a spade a spade

This morning, I was trying to find my lightbox. It’s finally raining in California, praise Neptune, and moisture is so welcome I have to hide my fear of all things dark and cloudy.

But I really can’t make it through winter, even winters that are overcast only 10% of the time. I have biochemical needs, y’all, and bread can’t fill all of my seratonin gaps.

And as I pulled all the sheets down to look in the linen closet, my first thought was, “Seriously, woman, why don’t you fold your sheets?”


My second thought was, “I should really learn how to fold fitted sheets. My grandma can do it, and I’m pretty sure it’s what defines civilized people from uncivilized.”

My third was, “What a bunch of hooey! There is no correlation between civilization and fitted sheets. None. There is no reason I have to fold anything in this linen closet. I am a good person and I absolutely reject the notion that my worth and my family’s happiness revolve around the status of my stupid effing sheets!”

The lies we tell about “should” are increasingly unraveling my thin hold on propriety.

Because here’s the thing. For a long time women were expected to keep house. And there were no floors, but they swept dirt floors. And there was one set of sheets and they washed in the tub (or creek) and scrubbed on the washboard, and they wrung out sheets and banged them against rocks. And they hung their clothes to dry.

And I have no idea what that was like. Maybe I would have folded my sheets.

But now I have an electronic box into which I type my ideas, and buttons to push to get those words sent places, and sometimes someone pays me for those words. And from that box come tales of others in desperate need, forsaken by their government or their employer or their family and pushed into small corners by violence or racism or hatred or hunger or disease.

So you can take your folded fitted sheets and shove them in your linen closet, but I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

I refuse to buy into the bullshit of what I should do. I have never folded my sheets, and though there is something dark inside me telling me I’m wrong and bad and weak for not folding sheets, I absolutely refuse to start now. No way. Folded sheets don’t make me grown up. Making tough choices and doing the best I can and remembering all of every day that I am not the only human trying to make my way on this planet, and that, in fact, many of the rest need help seventeen levels beyond folded goddamned sheets…those are the things that make me a grownup. Holding up friends as they die and bringing dinner to a family whose child is dreadfully ill, that is what makes me a grown-ass, don’t you dare tell me about fitted sheets, woman.

You know what I thought as I defiantly rolled up the sheets and shoved them in the closet after I found my lightbox? I thought, “Eleanor Roosevelt sure as hell wouldn’t want me folding fitted sheets.” What has stuck with me most over the past few days since I finished the biography examining the personal lives of those in the White House during World War II, are two relatively simple concepts: 1) women’s role in society is almost always circumscribed for her by others and 2) really great thinking requires taking long and frequent breaks.

Doris Kearns Goodwin makes very clear that Rosie the Riveter was persona non grata after the war. “Yeah, thanks for the help, but we were kidding about you being important.” Once all the efforts of women on the homefront helped secure peace, years of begging women to sacrifice for the country, of asking them to work as hard as they could, had produced results beyond anyone’s hopes. Women kicked ass in the factories. They owned their work. And they loved doing it. According to Goodwin, 79% of women said after the war that they preferred work to being at home, and 70% of those were married with kids. They preferred being with others doing something meaningful to ironing and folding fitted sheets. Of course they did. So the women wanted to continue to work. But factories fired them without a second thought, telling the women who made the American war effort possible that they weren’t wanted.

And that’s when the propaganda morphed from Rosie the Riveter to Suzy Homemaker. This is the part ringing in my ears a week later…the ads that for years promised automatic dishwashing and automated clothes drying to enable working women were all of a sudden ads for intricate recipes that took all day to prepare. Magazine articles that had urged women to help their men by helping the military-industrial complex became articles about how children whose mothers work grow up to be delinquents and criminals. (All of this is paraphrased, from my faulty memory that is boiling in rage against linen closet manners. This is not my thesis, it represents the tea leaves left in the bottom of my cup by Ms. Goodwin. If you want the exact wording from No Ordinary Time, get it from your library and read for yourself. For now, all you have is me and my seething indignation to go on, so roll with it.)

And so what is the propaganda telling us now, I’ve been mulling this week? Be thin and pretty and submissive, paint yourself perfectly, write the code but don’t criticize what the code depicts or enables, be there for your kids all the time unless you’re a CEO, buy lots of things, have a bucket list, spend time in nature, care about those in need, meditate, do yoga, put away your phone, buy another phone, be fully present every moment of the day, promise to sleep a lot but cheat and barely sleep so you can play the ‘I’m more tired than you are’ game of personal success, and eat only what you’ve grown yourself and spent 48 hours sprouting and 12 hours preparing but then god help you if it’s not raw and exactly as it was hunted by cave people.

Because pancreas. Or something. Spleen? Spleens that you need if you’re freediving, for that burst of oxygen just before you die? Save your freediving spleen with the paleo love of coconut and dates!

Geezus Cheeses on a Cracker. What else are we supposed to do? Please, do give me another list. I’m sure you can tax the limits of human endurance further.

So I see balled up sheets, I begin to tell myself to fold them, and I rage against post-war misogynist propaganda for a while.

Easy enough, right?

Nope. Because the other thing that stuck with me about No Ordinary Time is how much time FDR spent relaxing. And I’m not making any allowances here for his physical pain and exhaustion, and I note that. But I’m not mocking his leisure, so I feel rather free to recap the man’s daily schedule, which included a lot of sleep and entertainment. I’m reiterating what I understood from the book: that his leisure, including copious time spent with good friends over good food and good wine and good games, was integral to his ability to create. That without nightly card games and trips to the islands, he never would have come up with lend-lease. The guy woke late, ate, read, worked a bit, ate, relaxed, worked a bit, and held court in the library every evening. He played cards and spoke with friends and took some time to stare across the yard now and then. And he was a war-time President. I’m guessing he had quite a few things to do. I mean, he didn’t have to submit FSA receipts by the end of this month, or anything, but still.


He managed to take a break several times a day. We don’t do that. As a culture, we don’t do that enough. There are now articles telling you that it’s important to let your brain rest. To do some dishes and let information sink in so you can really process it. The are gorgeous, moving diatribes against productivity that render me incoherent with longing and sadness and a renewed refusal to fold my sheets.

So what is this bullshit about doing everything and having everything? I can’t do or have or be everything. Can’t. Won’t.

I will not fold my fitted sheets.
I will not do yoga retreats.
I will not make my nutty spreads.
I will not make my family’s beds.
I will not mop the stupid floor.
I will not scrub my muddy door.
I will not put my dear self last.
I will not eat my food so fast.
I will not say yes anymore.
I will not take on tasks galore.

I will not keep a crazy pace.
I will not join your insane race.


A good solid pout

Last week, Butterbean had a traumatic crash. We were running, despite his protests, to get me some energy for a long day of obligations. I was pushing his scooter when he hit a big bump and fell on his face. The big piece of meat fauceting blood off his chin threw me into an adrenaline-high that lasted the whole day. I was exhausted that night, sore from tensing everything, including my guilt muscles.

The next morning I got up early to run so I would be to the soccer game on time. A glorious 10 mile run at dawn. Too short, I pouted silently, but exactly right to prioritize my son.

I fell on a relatively uncomfortable asphalt hill trying to take a shortcut to Peanut’s game—braced my fall with my outstretched arm and likely tore something in my shoulder. I’ll see the doctor tomorrow, but decent amounts of pain and very limited mobility don’t bode well for a quick recovery. It’s a shoulder, nature’s most ludicrous of joints.

Rice University image via Creative Commons

Rice University image via Creative Commons

It’s been three days of looking on the bright side, caring for a stitched up preschooler, and trying to protect my injured arm, I’m officially worn out. I’m pouting.

Pain brings out my nastiest, grouchiest, most petulant side. I hate being injured. I have plans. I want to run and cook and write and chase my kids. I want to not regret having a stick shift and to wash three heads of hair without thinking about it. Guess how much you use your dominant arm for when you make your living on a computer and spend a good portion of your waking hours with children. I’ll help you on this one: a lot.

I’m a single parent trying to function with one arm. And that’s not a big deal, given that it’s temporary and I’ll be fine eventually. I’m lucky. Other people live with chronic pain, other people live with altered mobility…a few weeks isn’t going to be a big deal and I want to kick myself for whining.

I can make mac-n-cheese and scrambled eggs for several weeks if I have to. I can give up fencing for a few months or years. I will get back to running, maybe even in time for the race I’m already registered for. I can have the boys’ dad come over and change sheets like I did yesterday. And he can help with pumpkin carving.

But I’m not in the mood for this. Even with daily gratitude and warm bright smiles at everyone who needs one, I just can’t find the cheerful. Joyful, yes. Cheerful, no.

I have a big presentation this weekend, and I’m excited. I’m a demonstrative presenter and I like gesticulating. So I’m now rehearsing with one arm pinned against my side. I’ll be fine, it’ll be a good talk. But I’m still grouchy at my stupid decision. I gauged the slope of the hill and thought I could make it. I knew I probably couldn’t, but I live most days by the skin of my teeth, so I figured I could do this.


And I fell flat on my face rushing from on “should” to another. I got up, brushed myself off, shrugged off the blood dripping slowly from my knee, and went to the soccer game. I took more than 200 photos and chatted with several parents.

They’re delightful. We’re so lucky to have such kind people in our lives.

I’m just tired of all the DUTIES I must perform. I’m so exhausted from loading meals with vitamins and fiber and whole grains. I’m tired of driving people places. I’m tired of worrying about what comes next. I’m tired of deadlines and clients and having four minutes to myself a day. I’m tired. That’s not unusual. In fact, it’s rather droll of me to even say aloud, given how terribly sleep-deprived most of us are.

I fully acknowledge how ludicrous to write in a late-night blog post that I’m tired. But, I believe we’ve been over this: I’m so g*ddamned tired.

The man who drove us to the hospital to get Butter’s stitches lives several miles from us (we were on a run, remember, and too-far-too-drive-my-kid-to-the-hospital far from home when it happened). Our hero was so incredibly kind and selfless that I brought his family a thank you note and gift certificate. His favorite team is in the World Series tonight and I wanted to make their day easier with some Zachary’s. I handed the envelope to his wife, who told me I didn’t have to do this. We fell in front of the right house, she said. “This is what he does,” she insisted. And she pointed to my shoulder, in a sling, and said, “It’s time to slow down, you know.”

The idea is so foreign to me I can’t quite articulate why I found her insistence at once sweet and ridiculous.

How the heck can I do that?

I’m scrambling to get enough work to pay the bills, and I’m filling up every waking minute with obligations. I am not giving my kids enough, my creative work languishes in files untouched for months. There’s a long list of people I want to have over for brunch, which is genuinely the way I show love. I haven’t seen my favorite human on the planet, my grandma, in almost a month.

How exactly am I supposed to slow down?

Last night, in pain and unable to take any more sibling bickering, I lay down on the couch to take a break. I’d never actually sat on this couch. The old one got a big hole from two children pretending to be ninjas and launching themselves off it, so I scoured craigslist for a daybed. Our guest room has been rented out, and it’s nice to have a couch friends or family can actually sleep on. But we’ve had it for several weeks and I’d never sat on it.

I was lying supine, protecting my shoulder, for about a minute before I fell asleep. At 6:00 pm with my kids fighting 20 feet away about a frisbee, I just passed out.

I don’t know if my exhaustion is physical, emotional, or mental. Or all three. I cleared a huge deadline and went straight into two more, smaller deadlines. I helped my little guy get stitched up and then hours later screwed up my precarious sense of wholeness. The separation is still a logistical struggle and I’m overcommitted. All my runs, except the long run on my day without the kids, take place in the presence of a preschooler on a scooter, chasing him at top speed downhill and pushing his full 40 pounds uphill.

How dare I complain…but I can’t not type this: can’t anything be easy?

I’m worried about us. I’m worried that I don’t have enough to offer my kids or myself. I’m worried that I’m trying too hard to keep consulting rather than find a staff job.

I’m worried that if I slow down I’ll lose. Lose what, I’m not sure. But I know the feeling at Mrs. Hero’s suggestion about slowing down felt like panic.

Sheer, unadulterated, panic.

I hope, whatever the doctor says this morning, it involves the words, “do yourself a favor and play this track on the way home…”

Part time job

My kids accompanied me to the post office, and they balked at getting out of the car.

I told them they had to come in, and they rolled their eyes.

The post office housed a handful of people who weren’t in the mood, I could tell from their mirthless stares, for small boys. But as a paying customer, I silently recalled my breastfeeding mantra: “Anyplace I have a legal right to be, I have a legal right to do this.” I don’t think the law covers giggling children who want to rearrange postal products, but I tried not to think about such technicalities.

As each person before us in line approached the counter, explained their purpose, and paid, the boys grew more silly, more wiggly, more frustrating. Not their fault. Nobody likes standing in line. But such is life, occasionally, and they were going from play time to more play time, so they needed to learn to occupy themselves when bored.

And then eight-year-old Peanut spotted a coin near the front desk. He lunged across the room and prostrated himself on the low-pile industrial carpet hoping his treasure wasn’t a mirage.

I asked him to please get up.

His brother joined him.

I asked them to please get off the floor.

They wriggled around, quietly. Intently.

I asked them to please, please come stand by me.

The four-year-old grunted a bit, pressed for air as he snuffled along on his belly, covering himself in decades of federal-service filth, “We’re finding money!” I tried not to laugh. They’re so darned delicious and I so need bits of the unusual and ridiculous in my life.

And suddenly the room full of grousers smiled. I looked around. They were happy the little urchins were calm. I hated to admit it, but I was, too. It was disgusting to watch, and it was embarrassing to spend the rest of the day with abhorrently dirty children.

But Peanut made 78 cents, and Butterbean earned 35 cents, just by slithering all over a post office carpet for a few minutes.

At this rate we’re going to have their college funds fully loaded by December.

Look for us at a post office near you.

Trying Hard Not to Rearrange Furniture

I texted friends yesterday that I might need them to come help me move furniture. By the time they replied their faux excitement about the prospect of carrying my stuff around the house, I told them it might not be necessary.


When I’m stressed, I rearrange furniture. As a child whose family relocated a lot, and as an adult who has moved 17 times since freshman year of college, I learned that change comes in big, obvious, irreversible phases that look like new opportunities amongst the rearranged furniture. Moving to a new place was always about hope and new starts and gentle change. Because everything’s still there, just the space is different.

When my adrenals rattle my teeth with doses of neurochemicals that say I should panic, I connect the sensation with living somewhere new. So I either move or I change the whole layout of the house. I don’t actually plan to move right now, so I need to make my house look as though I’ve moved.

(Totally not my house. I love how that weird suburban McMansion photo shoot used light and a throw rug to make me think they really rearranged. False. My kind of rearranging means this room would have the furniture from another room and all this fly-fishing-cabin stuff would be in the kids’ room. Or garage. Rearranging isn’t moving something two feet. It’s relocating and purging until you don’t recognize the room at all.)

But didn’t I just rearrange a few months ago? Some of the furniture left to go to Spouse’s new apartment. Some got sold. And some went downstairs this week because I’m getting a new roommate.

Yep. I’m 41 years old, newly single parent, and I’m taking on a boarder to help cover the rent. All I have to do is start cooking cabbage and washing neighbor’s laundry and I’ll be a set-piece in a late-Nineteenth-Century American novel.

School started last week, which has unnerved me, too. So the need to rearrange is likely stemming from big changes. But still everyone is healthy and reasonably happy. Despite the separation, the boys’ dad spends a lot of time at our house being a parent and showing the kids that he’s not leaving.

That means, though, his admirable efforts at making the boys feel loved and safe are all. up. in. my. face.

Poor guy. He came over last weekend so I could work. And after a long day of chasing after kids and bikes and scooters, he took a shower.

But he put a new soap in the shower. After I opened the shower door and saw it, I called him to the bathroom and extensively explained the concept of leaving things as you find them. He has thoughtfully moved tons of my stuff in the past few months, and it’s driving me crazy. I put my running shoes by the door so I don’t forget them, he puts them in the closet where they belong. I put the kids’ lunch boxes on the counter because they need to be washed, he puts them in the cupboard where they should be. I hang a jacket on a doorknob because it needs to go into storage, he puts it back in the closet where it used to live. I might have used the phase “You’re welcome here, but you don’t live here, so stop deciding where stuff goes,” instead of biting my tongue, as I should.

For years we’ve been using the nicer downstairs shower. But that is now part of the in-law rental unit, and I’ve consolidated everything from both bathrooms into the smaller one upstairs. And it felt nice and grownup and efficient to finally have a space that nobody in the whole family uses but me.

My shower.  MY shower.

And then I come home after banging my brains against a federal grant proposal, and there’s a soap MY SHOWER.

I am fully aware that he didn’t do anything wrong. The guy wanted soap. It doesn’t matter whether he thought I forgot or couldn’t find the soap, or whether he didn’t think anything at all except “I need soap.” It’s a fair desire, that of having soap in a drenching cubicle whose primary purpose is cleaning. I can’t fault him for wanting, finding, and getting soap.

Except it was my shower. MY shower. Was. Now it has ex-partner-who-wanted-soap-and-found-soap-and-added-soap tainted idea-germs all over it. I don’t want his ideas in my shower.

That’s so stupid I can barely type it. But this is my blog and my truth, so I’m willing to be crazy here, even if only for a little…well, okay, most of the time.

But it comes down to this simple and difficult reality: separating from a partner with whom I will coparent for a long, long time is genuinely challenging. I like the world black and white, not grey. I want extremes. And when I am part of a relationship that ends, I want it to actually end.

Surprise that’s not a surprise: there’s no ending a relationship with a co-parent. We’re not teenagers anymore and we can’t just stop calling each other and avoid each other at the mall. This is joint-back-to-school-night territory, y’all.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been prepared for the apocalypse, as long as that catastrophic upheaval involves the complete inability to buy soap. I once had a roommate laugh, “Well, at least we’re prepared for the next Great Soap Famine,” unwittingly insensitive to the hoarding tendencies that make me collect soap in neat rows at the back of bathroom cupboards. I had rows and rows of soap in the hall cupboard of many of those 17 apartments, but I’ve been working to whittle down the stock since moving back to the Bay Area several years ago. I don’t need to prepare for the emergency poverty that might strike and leave me without soap (or any means of buying soap). I don’t need to imagine a time when there’s no soap at the store or no open stores when I need soap or no…I don’t know what. I don’t know why I hoard soap. It’s not as though I shower that much. I just know I need to stop hoarding soap. I have enough, I tell myself as I pass the soap aisle. I have enough, I am enough, I will always have enough, I will always be enough.

Don't worry...I would never ever hoard unwrapped soap. They get goopy after a while, you know.

Don’t worry…I would never ever hoard unwrapped soap. They get goopy after a while, you know.

But since Butter was conceived five years ago, I’ve been hoarding shower gel. Not using it, because I do prefer soap. But paring down the soap collection has me compelled to build a shower gel stash. I shouldn’t call it a hoard. That diminishes the mental illness that genuine hoarders have. I only have six or seven half-gallon bottles of shower gel. Whenever Grocery Outlet has the big 32-ounce size of my favorite brand of natural, toxin-free beauty products, I buy the shower gel. And shampoo. And conditioner. But not compulsively. That would be crazy. I only buy another jug of organic cleansing products if the scent is right. There’s no use hoarding gardenia shampoo or rose conditioner. I don’t want my apocalypse miserable, people. I just want to be prepared. And really, really, really clean for the zombies. Or maybe prepared in the event that bake sales in the zombie age become soap sales.


I only have three half gallons of shampoo, four of conditioner, and six of shower gel. And that’s totally normal and not at all weird.

So my new shower, my space that meant embracing change and taking a deep breath and accepting hard choices…that shower had shower gel but no soap. That shower, the one we haven’t used in the three years since we moved in, was old and small, but refreshing and cozy and mine. And grownup. So I pulled out of the cupboard matching half-gallon pump bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. No soap so that the tiny soap dish could be for a razor. So that I wouldn’t have to clean soap-drip off the cramped walls. So that I could freaking have something in this world the way I want it without worrying about sinking into soapless poverty.

And now the man who is permanently part of my life but not of my future, who is a committed co-parent but a distant memory, who is familiar but now a stranger—that man put soap in my shower.

So I told him not to put soap in the shower. I explained my plan and my shower gel and my need to feel like I own something. And to fight the panic of that by embracing a decrease in the shower gel stock.

He understood. And he was gracious about it. He is back to being gracious about my brands of crazy, now that he gets to live somewhere else. Or stay somewhere else most of the time and come over to be with his kids and hear theories on soap use now and then.

I was glad he understood.

But then the next day he rearranged the shower gel and the shampoo and put them in the wrong places and now the shower is ruined.

I just can’t even.

Poor guy. He’ll never understand. He just doesn’t get it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t have to understand my kind of crazy.

I just always hoped he would.

And last night, when I mentioned the text to my friends asking for furniture help, my co-parent offered to help me rearrange the garage. Full on “pull everything out, purge some stuff, reorganize the rest, and put it all back” hour-long garage shuffle. The type he’s fought for years.

I told him that he’s a very kind person to help me engage in my favorite form of free therapy: work out panic with heavy physical labor.

Maybe he does actually understand my crazy.

Or maybe he feels guilty about the soap.

I'm starting to think I have a real problem, because this photo makes me twitchy. The soap is broken. The. Soap. Is. Broken. That is very bad.

I’m starting to think I have a real problem, because this photo makes me twitchy. The soap is broken. The. Soap. Is. Broken. That is very bad.


Move on, but how?

Two nights ago, I wrote this about the insanity in Ferguson:

I have no idea what to do with the news of a shooting and civil unrest and police insanity in Ferguson. I just don’t. I have no idea what it’s like to live in fear that my boys will be shot, unarmed, just because of who they are. And I have no idea what to do with people who assume that grotesque uses of police force are ever justified. I simply don’t know what to do with police wearing camo who refuse to hear peaceful protesters, and instead aim assault rifles at them from tanks. (What are they camouflaged for? They’re in a town. On streets. There are no fatigues for that. Stop hiding as though you’re in the freaking jungle. Put on your blues and walk your beat like a proper, compassionate, protect-and-serve cop.)

So I’ve compartmentalized my “I don’t know” into a tight, painful pit in my chest, and carried it around for several days. And it’s nothing compared with what millions carry, including people in communities who know their town, state, and country don’t care about them. So I swallow hard and move on.

But I couldn’t bear to post those unfinished thoughts, especially when they then led, in my draft, to a long list of the things causing me serious existential pain right now.

It’s obscene, I think, to ramble on about the joys and the pain in my life while the very foundation on which our society is based falls apart. I have no right to blog when people are being brutalized.

So tonight’s shift, wherein social media regales the world with the monumental difference between fear and communication, between criminalizing speech versus hearing protestors, between waging war within cities and showing compassion within communities, has begun the process of healing.

Not healing entirely. But cleaning off the wounds enough that we can start looking, and really seeing, what is going on in our country.

Changing the leadership from assault to engagement has made Ferguson feel safer tonight.

What are we going to do to make the rest of the country safer? More engaged? More honest about tensions? More open to solutions?

We need to talk about assumptions. We need to talk about law, rights, and enforcement. We need to talk about race, poverty, representation, and listening.

Where do we go from here?

Just close your eyes

There is an exercise we do in fencing warm ups: we balance on one foot. And then we switch to the other. And after we switch back, we balance on each foot with our eyes closed.

You find out two things when you close your eyes and balance on one leg. 1) A surprising amount of balance predicates itself on vision. 2) Your proprioceptors function amazingly well if you get out of their way. Because the human body should adjust, balance, and re-adjust in response to stimuli. In fact, the human brain should also adjust, balance, and re-adjust in response to input.

So why do I feel as though, only a few weeks into the initial process, that a divorce is knocking my body and brain so far out of whack they can’t adjust?

I know this isn’t supposed feel easy or simple. I know after 15 years the path isn’t going seem as clear as we’d hoped when we finally, finally admitted how wrong our marriage has been for so very long.  I have proof, from the Interwebs, which tell me whenever I ask, that feeling all of the feelings is normal, even during an amiable split. Read some really lovely and awful and heart-felt descriptions of the journey from the incomparable Heather of the EO and my new blog-crush Carla of All of Me Now.

By the way, any time someone says their divorce portends a good thing, and that they’re both doing a great job of addressing the issues they could never address while married, you should give them caramel, the way two of my friends did. Because I can tell you that “doing a great job” of splitting up is something like doing a great job reading Heart of Darkness. It’s ugly and awful, and nobody would ever recommend it to anyone else. Caramel I can recommend unequivocally to everyone. Divorce and/or Conrad? Not so much.

But until a couple of weeks ago I thought, because I’m quite keen on control and planning and overthinking, that I could make a nice tidy plan for how this breakup would go.  And that it would. Go. Just follow a path toward eventual harmony and paperwork and a co-parenting friendship.

Rather like the way I thought I was rather balance-y at fencing. Until I close my eyes. Turns out I balance myself by finding stable points ahead of me and staring at them. When I close my eyes, that stable fixative point ghosts into a bleeding black puddle behind my eyelid, and the swimming scarlet and yellow vitreous drowns my efforts to clench myself into balance and unnerves my thinking mind enough to make me wobble. A lot.

Navigating through the day in an almost-former-marriage feels a lot like wobbling on one foot with your eyes closed. [My eyes closed. I can’t speak for you, nor should I. If you ever try both the blind one-foot-balancing trick and the initial phases of separation in the same week, let me know how they compare.] I feel as though I have it all under control, barely, until I blink. And then logistics and hurt and choices and relief and work and timing and panic and money and regret and discussions and feelings and my poor, sweet, vulnerable little boys all swim in green and blue and purple venous blobs before me like a lake of bruises beneath which I’m drowning.

So I open my eyes. And I try to balance without focusing so hard. I try to let my body balance me rather than trying to force everything with my mind. I try to trust and I try to breathe. And I try to memorize how my body feels with this balance so that when I close my eyes I care less how it looks than how it feels.

And each day happens. And each night does, too. And the next day there’s another endless string of challenges.

And when I let my body handle those obstacles, rather than relying just on my mind, it’s like living in molasses. Because letting go and not controlling the hell out of everything taps proprioceptors I’ve never used before. I’m so slow right now. I type slowly. I think slowly and answer slowly. I’m even running so  slowly that I’m considering seeing a doctor. I’ve lost more than a minute per mile off my regular, don’t-have-to-try-for-it pace. That minute, on every mile I’ve run for the past month, is gone. Lost to the ether. I hope some young person in love and full of hope is running faster with my minutes. I miss them, but I’m willing to lose them forever if they go to a good home.

The words “a good home” make me a little maudlin. And by “a little” I mean “ask me in person because I’ll admit very little on a public blog even though I’m pretty darned honest here at good ol’ NaptimeWriting.”

All I know is that if asking my mind and body to do too much leaves me wobbling, I need to balance smarter. Eyes open, deep breath; eyes closed, rolling with the wobbles. Because that’s what learning experiences are for, right? Strengthening muscles you didn’t know you had? Part of me says, “but I don’t want these muscles because I promise I’ll never need them again.” But I will. For the rest of my relationship with the boys’ father, I will need these blind-balance muscles.

And that right now is the saddest part for me, after the waves of gut-punches at what this adult tower of cards means for the boys: I’m building muscles I don’t want to need. But I do need them. And so I will build them. I have to.

Eyes open, deep breath; eyes closed…let go.




Dancing on marbles

Life is one big precarious attempt to not tumbling ass over teakettle, I am now convinced. And I’m trying to see the joy in the slapstick of walking boldly across a slick path made unpredictable with hundreds of marbles. Because every time I’m posed to post on this very spot about something lovely, I’m walloped upside the head with something decidedly unlovely.

And every time I want to wallow in the unlovely, something decidedly lovely distracts me.

You are likely aware, if you’ve been reading here for a while, that my gobsmackingly awesome children are finally starting to get along. Wise friends with three boys told me that once the little guy hit Four it would get better. And it has (with all the caveats about the fact that three people in the same house, none of whom has much emotional control, are rarely in the same mood and on the same page). Sometimes, now, when the first pats of butter-yellow light slip through their blinds and plop onto their beds each morning, Peanut and Butter wake up willing to engage in silly, playful interactions rather than surly, bickering nastiness. Sometimes. And that has increased the quality of life around here immeasurably.

Part of the boys’ getting along more probably roots in the fact that their Dad and I are being much calmer now that we’ve decided not to live together. Less struggle begets less struggle. So far. When there is tangible paternal-absence and marked maternal-lack-of-running-time, when the there might be a struggle or two. See the above metaphor about making steady progress along a marble-strewn path.

I’m sure that, in part, the boys’ kindness to one another stems from a fabulous trip to Boston. We walked the Charles, we spent our tourist dollars at Marathon Sports on Boylston. We ate good food (my GAWD I’ve missed Red Bones) and we practically lived on the T. We cheered for marathoners until we were hoarse. We even offered our fluffernutters to the many, many police working the course on Patriot’s Day. (One indignant Statie told me he already had his peanut butter with jelly, thank you. And then I believe he was fired for inMassabordination.) We spent time like a family, and it was good for everyone.

Part of the increased sibling harmony also stems from a deep sadness that has stilled my otherwise frenetic pace. The death of my friend has brought a rather large dollop of “I don’t care about anything any more” to my endless to-do lists and my frantic need to prove myself worthy through incessant activities.

As we made it through the memorial, we found out that a mutual friend, who was diagnosed with leukemia around the same time Jay had his first surgery, has relapsed. This little boy, who spent kindergarten in Children’s Hospital enduring rounds and rounds of chemo, and whose family learned a gratitude few of us will ever fathom, enjoyed first- and second-grade without cancer. Now his leukemia is back. He’s going through a couple of weeks of chemo before a bone marrow transplant.  We’re all trying coming together as a community, again, to get people checked, at no cost, to see if they’re matches for any of the many Americans in need of bone marrow. And maybe, if enough people get the free test, we can find our little guy a match!

So that’s exciting. If you’re one of the people who’s into bright sides and finding the joy of surfing the marble-covered path to tomorrow, it’s enlivening to have a purpose. To help. To appreciate and breathe and put one foot in front of the other. Nothing brings me out of “what’s the point” like a bone marrow drive.

Go hug your family. Email your friends and tell them you love them. Take a deep breath each morning, and relish what’s good.

And consider being tested to see if you’re a match for, and can help give a great life to, a sweet little boy.