American Dystopia


When did dystopia begin in the United States? Was it when we elected Donald Trump? Was it when the Supreme Court upheld Citizens United? Was it when we stopped holding our elected officials accountable in order to support our political tribe or to maintain our party’s hold on power?

I look at my country now, and I shudder. I consider what it would be like to expatriate because I cannot see a way out of the darkness that is most assuredly coming.

My country, once upon a time, was innovative, progressive, a leader on the world stage. We were more than our military. We were reformers of social injustice, leaders in industry and education. We attempted egalitarianism as much as we were able. We offered a dream that once would have been able to come true. Now, however, that dream is only a memory, and I watch the nightmare that is taking shape as my country not only stagnates but moves backwards.

Now instead of social justice, we treat human beings like animals. Worse than animals. We lock up the unwell and the unfortunate in cages for profit. We separate children from families and hold them in pens unfit for criminals, much less a child. We allow our government to dictate the personal choices of women and their bodies.

My own senator has licked the boots of a wannabe dictator. He has screamed the attributes of a man who lied under oath, who was accused of sexual assault. He held this man up so high that he reached a seat on the Supreme Court. My senator has even advised the President’s son to ignore a subpoena, to ignore the law. And yet we are supposed to believe that this senator cares about the law? That he will create and support just bills that will be beneficial for this country?

Laws means nothing, it seems, unless you are like me – an average citizen. For me, I will end up crushed under the law. My children, if they do not die in school first, will inherit a country designed to reward only those already in power. They will find a class system so deeply rooted that they have few options available to them. It’s lucky for them they are white.

The sickening xenophobia that is sweeping this country is frightening. Perhaps it is in response to the fact that what was once a majority in our population is giving way to the myriad of colors and races and undefined gender roles that truly make up the fabric of where I live. Therefore, the dying majority must create “others” to blame to demonize to turn on with righteous vengeance. And let’s not think for a moment that these “others” are Americans, are human.

The pro-birth movement that is swelling now is not pro-life. Please let’s be clear on that. One cannot be pro-life and then call for the subjugation of others, or remove the support programs and safety nets that help so many who suffer under what is quickly becoming an oligarchy. Pro-life means all life. ALL of it. From birth to death, and yet, where are the social programs that help to support the poor, the infirm, the mentally ill, the elderly? Why does our government continue to strip these programs away from those who need them most? How is that pro-life?

Our government that so desperately wants to protect a fetus seems to give no regard to the human life that follows after birth. So please do not tell me that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has anything to do with life. It has only to do with power and control.

Our politicians and lawmakers are dismantling our democracy. Our elections were interfered with, and we do nothing. Our President and political leaders lie and cheat and ignore the very laws they are supposed to uphold, and we do nothing. States want to force victims of rape and incest to give birth to children of trauma, want say that a fetus has rights but deny the rights of the mother, and we do nothing.

You tell me to vote, so I vote. We vote. Even though we are denied polling places, denied the needed time to stand in lines that are hours long, denied the right to vote because we were once incarcerated. Even though our inalienable right as citizens is restricted and suppressed at every turn, we vote.

And nothing changes because we have to rely on those who broke the system to fix it.

But we vote because what else can we do?

Tell me, what else can I do?

Cherishing Childhood Memories: I Don’t Think I’m Doing it Right


Early March. The mornings are still chilly and dark, the birds haven’t yet begun to sing as I wake up to get my daughter ready for school. I’m awake at least half an hour before I have to get out of bed, but I pretend to sleep for twenty-five minutes. My eyes open and close every five or six minutes to check the time, waiting until exactly 6:25 before I toss back the covers and shuffle into the bathroom. I am my own snooze button.

The light in my daughter’s room is typically on, her door shut. The cats meet me in the hallway and we pad our way quietly to the rectangle of light outlined by her door, painted antique white and decorated with a pink and sparkling letter C, hung high and center. Rizzo reaches up, stretching his paws out to the doorknob. I open the door and we enter, Chuck Norris follows behind, silent and sleek, my little orange ninja.

My daughter pretends to be asleep most mornings, her princess and unicorn blanket pulled over her head and tucked tight against her body. Rizzo looks for a way in under the blanket, head-butting her shoulder or her head in protest. Chuck slides under the bed, just wanting to be a part of what’s happening but not really involved. I sit on the bed, pushing my daughter’s long legs out of the way. She giggles. The dance of getting her out of bed begins: I look for her, she laughs, I tickle her, she laughs, I tell Rizzo I can’t find her, she laughs.

I never succeed in getting her out of bed. Eventually, the cats and I take our leave with the admonishment, “Get up and get dressed, you don’t want to miss the bus.” I put toothpaste on her toothbrush and head downstairs to make her snack and feed the cats.

When she finally makes her way downstairs, dressed in sparkles or polka dots or kitten-adorned shirts matched with leopard or star print pants or whatever other garish combination she can manage, we have only minutes before we leave the house to walk to the bus stop. And I find it amazing that it is in these spare minutes that she completely exhausts me. Just by talking!

This morning I tried to explain that mom’s brain doesn’t work without coffee, that I don’t like to talk so much, and that there’s really not so much to say so early in the morning, but she was talking, so she didn’t hear me. I don’t know what she said. I think it had something to do with her shoes, or her jacket or silly hat day. Sometimes she talks just to fill the air with sound, as though without it, the world is frightening. She talks to ward off evil or scare away the shadows. She talks in a way that only requires the occasional “mmm-hmm” or “really?” or “that’s cool” in response.

She’s only six! What will it be like when she’s sixteen?

Lord, save me.

Sometimes she calls my name in the middle of her discourse, and if I don’t answer, she will call my name again and again, the expertise of repetition an innate ability of the very young.

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom!! Mom!!! MOM!”

Repetition and volume. They are weapons skillfully managed by my pint-sized human child. I relent.


She refuses to hear the irritation and exhaustion in my voice. I am sure she knows what I am saying with that one word, but she pushes past it.

“Oliver said he went to the wolf ball yesterday and that if you go you can bring dogs and woofs and you can swim with them in the pool and there’s slides and…”

She is one long run-on sentence, my girl.

“That’s it,” I say, cutting in to her lecture on the magic and improbable-ness of what is actually the Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park. “My ears are full. I can’t hear anything else.”


“Nope! That’s it. Full ears.”

And it works for a little while. She goes off to play Legos or dolls or wolf ball, and I am gifted with an intermission of silence. I know I am supposed to be cherishing these moments of her childhood, tucking away stories of “when” so that I can tell them to her later, but it’s these small moments when she is off in her room or playing on her tablet, when I am left blessedly alone that I cherish right now. And it’s only sometimes that I feel guilty.

Hard Dirt Roads



The skin under and around my fingernails is stained an orangish-yellow. Turmeric. I made Tandoori chicken last night, and I can still smell the mix of spices even though I’ve showered and washed my hands several times since. I don’t mind the smell, but I can’t get the stain off my skin.

Turmeric stains much like southern red clay, clay that spatters skin and clothes and shoes. Clay that packs down hard, carving out backwoods dirt roads. Roads not made for small foreign cars to drive on. Not meant for young, unexperienced drivers who kick up pink dust clouds, who skid and crash into ditches because thirty miles per hour is too fast on roads like those. Roads that took the life of my oldest child.

Those stains don’t come off.

And now my middle child wants to learn to drive. Of course, he does. He’s almost fifteen, almost sixteen, almost leaving home. It happens too fast and even though I knew this day would come, I still wasn’t prepared. I still panicked.

“I can get my learner’s permit when I turn fifteen and then after six months, I can get a provisional license.” He recited the rules of South Carolina to his dad as I cooked dinner. This from a boy who last year didn’t ever plan on learning how to drive, the one who had decided he would just Uber everywhere.

As I listened, the world constricted, my vision tunneled to focus only on my son’s face, still soft and slightly round. I could have counted his freckles on his cheeks, the hairs on his head. If only I could hold him like that forever. I opened my mouth to say, Wait. Slow down. Please don’t grow up yet. But what I said was…

“I don’t care what South Carolina says, you’ll practice on a permit for at least a year before you get any kind of license, provisional or otherwise. And that’s if we let you get a permit. This isn’t something you get to decide.”

Distantly, I heard myself, my voice harsh, the words grating. An attempt at control in a moment that I could feel whirling around me like hurricane winds.

I could almost hear his eyes roll. His sigh followed me around the kitchen, but I ignored it. I turned to back the stovetop, wiping at a clean counter. I waited as the sound of his leaving the kitchen and heading back up stairs faded into the keyboard clicking of my husband on his computer. And then I cried.

Memories assaulted me, nightmare visions I’ve substituted for facts because I don’t know the truth. I don’t know why my oldest son got off the highway when he was driving with his friend from Tennessee to Florida. I don’t know how they ended up on that dirt road in Georgia, but I know that they died there. Both boys. In my head, I hear gravel kicking up against the car chassis, ricocheting in the wheel wells. I see a coxcomb of red dust like a mist of blood rising up into the air. I hear the screaming of crushed metal and feel the heat of the fire that engulfed my son’s red Nissan Maxima when they lost control of the car and fell into a ditch.

They are not memories that come often, but now, my second son, my surviving son wants to drive, and I cannot stop the horror that comes with that knowledge. I cannot stop the fear.

“You can’t keep him from driving,” my husband said to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulder, pulling me close to dry my tears with his shirt. “He’ll have to learn sometime.”

I nod my head, my breath hitching in my chest. I know this. I have always known this, but I’m not ready.

When my oldest son wanted to drive, I taught him. I sat next to him in my Volkswagon Beetle, lurching with each repeated attempt he made to ease out of first gear. Sharing his joy as he found his way smoothly into second. Around and around a South Florida neighborhood, sharing laughter at each stop sign, each spasming birth into first gear, until he finally found his technique. Until finally, he mastered easing the car into gear from a dead stop, shifting into second, third, and ever higher.

I remember our only road trip together when he was sixteen. His gentle question: “Mom? Can I drive a little?” on a back country road, flat and lonely. Unintimidating. The Doors sang about being strange, played on his iPod, shared through car speakers. His younger brother asleep in a booster seat in the back of the car. I pulled to the side of the road and let him take the wheel. He was cautious, then confident. I was nervous and proud.

And then he was gone. His father and I, we hadn’t taught him well enough. We hadn’t told him to be careful of the red clay roads. How hard they can be. How they stain.

So now, how do I teach my second son to drive? How can I teach him when I am terrified of letting him learn? I can remember the joy, the laughter, the pride I felt before, but all I have left now is fear. And I want to move past it, but I don’t know how. I’m not ready.

I don’t think I ever will be.

This is Just a Drill – One that Should Scare the Shit Out of You.


I waited at the bus stop, brisk November wind pulling at my clothes. The sun was out, the sky was a comic book shade of blue, and I watched the bright yellow school bus come bouncing around the bend in the road. The huff and puff of brakes, the squeal of its opening doors. Children filed out, their chatter filling the autumn air.

I waved to my daughter, expecting to see her smiling face and flashing eyes, expecting her to come running at me, already talking about how this and why that. Instead, she walked toward me, head lowered, silent.

“How was your day, pea?” I asked.

“Bad,” she said.

I waited, reaching out to touch the top of her small head.

“We were supposed to be quiet when we were in the closet, but one of the boys wouldn’t quit talking. Mrs. Willis said the man would find us if we weren’t quiet.”

“You hid in a closet?”


“From a man?”

“It was just pretend, but the boys wouldn’t be quiet. It was chaos.”

“It was chaos?


She sighed, a sound that carried too much weight for her small body. I wanted to hug her, but she had already run ahead, eager to check the mailbox, the strange pretend man already put aside.

Taking the pieces she’d scattered before me, I put together that she’d had a drill at school. An active shooter drill. My six year old and her class were pretending to hide from someone with a gun who wanted to shoot them. This is what happens in kindergarten now.

I’ve held on to this for weeks, not sure what I should say about it, if anything. Maybe the sinking feeling I get every time I think about this is an overreaction. Maybe I’m comparing my memories of tornado drills and fire drills too starkly with her active shooter drill. But then, as I was wandering the internet looking for something completely unrelated, I found this:

A nursery rhyme about lockdowns posted on the wall of a kindergarten classroom in Somerville, Mass. (Courtesy of Georgy Cohen)


The only comparison I can make is to Ring Around the Rosie, a children’s rhyme about the Black Plague.

This sent a chill down my spine. This is what we have come to in this country because guns are more important than people. More important than our children. Instead of sensible regulation, like other countries, we will teach our children to hide, to fear, to expect violence.

We Americans are our own black plague.

And perhaps you think this is an over emotional statement from a too liberal mommy. Maybe so. But I believe in our Constitution, which means I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I also believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe that my daughter has the right to go to school without fear, without having to practice hiding from someone who wants to shoot her for no reason.


Why can’t we change this?

Why won’t we change this?

It’s not an all or nothing choice, as we are constantly told it is. We are told over and over again that even the idea of regulating our current laws means, “They’ll come for our guns!” “The government wants to take our guns away!” The argument is absurd.

But even if it was an all or nothing choice, why do we keep saying that guns are all and life is nothing?

We need to make a better choice.

An Introvert’s Request


The leaves are changing one by one. The wind, cooler now, lifts them high and swirls them into the air like flurries threatening a heavier snowfall. Pumpkins have become porch sentinels, guarding the path of fallen acorns. Fall has finally arrived in the South.

I have pulled out my sweaters and jeans, my boots and scarves. I stand facing the northern wind and imagine I can already smell the smoke from neighboring chimneys. I have not yet pumpkin-spiced anything; although, it is only a matter of time. I can taste mulled wine and candy corn, baked apples and hot cider. And I can also taste the fear that lines the back of my throat like pond scum.

For the past several months I have battled with my bipolar disorder. I have fought my way through heavy medications with horrible side effects. My body no longer spasms, and the constant nausea has finally receded. My brain is clear of the heavy fog that surrounded it, that made it hard to think or focus or to remember. My doctor, thank God, listens to me and respects my opinions while still trying to do what’s best for me.

But winter is coming.

I am alone most days, and my nights, while filled with the bustle of family, are too often hollow. Winter is when I curl into myself, hiding in books and movies. The dominant introvert asserts herself, pushing everyone away, not because she likes to be lonely, but because she is so tired of fighting with depression that she has no energy left for anyone else. And so, the hole of depression gets deeper.

I am probably a horrible friend. I don’t reach out often enough, waiting in my own personal darkness for others to find me. And when I’m found, I will agree to go out for an afternoon or an evening, but change my mind at the last minute, social anxiety overwhelming my desire for companionship.

My husband forces me sometimes to go out with others, to go to the party I agreed to attend weeks before when, in a fleeting moment, I felt happy and energized. It’s his way of loving me, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for all the friends who’ve found me in the dark, who’ve pushed past my social anxiety and depression and pulled me into the light. A text, an email, a phone call, a random emoji. You may never know how deeply those moments of thoughtfulness affect me, but I have savored them like the last bite of warm cake. And know that if I have done the same for you, a text or email or random emoji, then it’s because I’ve pushed the introvert in me away long enough to reach out. It may seem like nothing, half a second of ever rushing time, but I probably agonized over it. What word? What image? What feeling do I send out to someone? Do they want to hear from me? What if I’m bugging them? Maybe I shouldn’t bother. Maybe I should just leave them alone.

I have lost friends this way, I think.

And now the seasons are changing, the dark will last longer, the introvert will have her way, but know that if we are friends, I’m still here. I’ve just hunkered down for the winter, curling in on myself, hiding with a book and a warm blanket. Know that this is my way of fighting the depression, the loneliness and the despair of things I cannot even name. Know that I need you to find me here in the darkness if you can, if you’re willing. Know that if you call, I will answer.

Please know that I’m still here.

A Little Taste of Empty Nest


The house is quiet. Too quiet.

I keep looking around for my daughter, expecting to see her draped over her little pink armchair or bouncing down the stairs, but she’s not here. She’s in summer camp this week, and the house is so oddly still that it’s discomforting.


And when she comes home, she’s so worn out from camp that all she wants to do is eat dinner and relax.

I’m so confused.

How is it that the manic little chipmunk that usually tears around my house and who makes me tired just by watching her now has no energy, no giggles, no jumping bean attitude? And how is it that I miss all of her energy?

I mean, the boy is here, but he’s 14 and likes to sleep in and speaks to me only in grunts unless he has questions about food or some other important subject. So, it’s like he’s not really here at all.

I’m alone in the house, and the quiet of it is too loud, the emptiness too vast.

I thought that I would enjoy this more, that I would be happy. I have often imagined a time when there are no kids, when they are gone, living their lives as adults, and I would be free. But this – this week, this quiet, this emptiness – makes me feel more lonely than free. It makes me feel a longing that I’ve selfishly never felt before.

When my daughter gets home from camp, I find myself asking rapid-fire questions: What did you do today? What was for lunch? What books did you read? Who did you play with? And she answers, but she is not as excited as I am. She is tired and hungry. She wants to ignore me and have her own quiet time, so I relent, but I wish that I could tell her that there can be too much quiet, but she wouldn’t understand. She’s only five, after all.

So I sit here, listening to jazz music, writing blog posts and stories, filling up time with laundry and other chores. I could go to the bookstore or shopping, but the idea of it only reminds me that I’m alone. I have no one who wants to sweep the floors with me or go to Barnes & Noble or the mall, no one who likes to pick out dresses and shoes with me, who tells me how pretty I look and asks me if she looks pretty, too. And I think, is this what it will be like when both my children have gone? Is this feeling, this hollow pit that sits in my chest, what I will feel when my house is finally an empty nest?


The Fear of Letting Go


The heat is already oppressive, pushing against my skin as if it would wring out all of my sweat and strength and willpower. The sun stabs at me as I move from one shady spot to the next, one air-conditioned building to another. I run my errands in the morning and hide in the afternoon. Summer has arrived in force, and although I have endured Florida summers for more than twenty years, South Carolina’s heat has its own kind of cruelty.

My daughter, now five years old, doesn’t remember Florida’s sweltering 6-month summers or Connecticut’s shorter, gentler ones. For her, this summer is the first, and she has it all planned out. We will go to the pool, to the splash park, to the beach. We will have picnics and win prizes for summer reading. There will be baseball games and board game nights with family.

For my part, I will do my best to keep up.

Right now, we are learning how to swim. We had lessons for a week where we both learned from an instructor – she on how to swim, and I on how to teach. Now, she is willing to let me teach her at the pool in our neighborhood, and for the most part it’s going well, but she is still afraid of the water, of letting go of my hand.

“Do you think I’d let you sink?” I ask.

She shakes her head no, but I can see the fear hiding behind her eyes. I can almost hear the voice whisper, “But what if she does…?”

“I would never let you sink, Charly,” I say.

She nods.

“Do you trust me?”

She nods again.

“Then let go of my hand.”

A siren’s wail twice as large as my daughter’s small form erupts from her lungs, bouncing across the water and through the neighborhood. In wartime, people would have been heading to underground bunkers at such a sound. All I can do is withstand it, pulling away from her as much as our linked hands will allow.

I know that I can break through her fear in time and with patience, but as I watch her now, her little face grimacing as though she is in actual physical pain, I wonder about this girl who is so often fearless. I wonder at the way her fear holds her in place, stunting the growth of today’s swim lesson. And then I wonder about myself.

I also used to be fearless, driven, motivated, but lately, I feel as though I am afraid of everything. Like my daughter, I am afraid of letting go of everything known and swimming out into the deep end of the pool. I used to be an unstoppable force, but now I am at a standstill, and I’m not really sure how I came to be that way.

My younger sister, someone who has had to fight through every day just to find some kind of normal, told me recently how much she looked up to me and how she wanted to be like me. She said she loved that I was always independent and could always get things done. I almost cried to hear it. I couldn’t tell her that the woman she held in such esteem no longer existed. The woman she idolized was now unemployed, dependent upon her husband, and the only things she could get done fell into the realm of housework.

My fear, like my daughter’s, has paralyzed me. But unlike my daughter, I don’t really know what I’m afraid of. It would be simpler to be afraid of the pool. Then I could just jump in, but it’s not that simple…or maybe it is, and I can’t recognize it.

I wonder if this fear began with the death of my son, or perhaps when I was finally diagnosed and medicated for bipolar disorder. Perhaps it was the birth of my daughter, and with it the the fear that she will turn out like me. So many moments to choose from that perhaps I have given in to them all.

How do I come back from this? How do I let go and jump?

I don’t know. I can’t see a way out right now, but I am looking. It’s all I can do.


Vacation Eating


My head aches this morning, a dull thumping just above my ears, and my stomach is hollow, gnawing at itself in little bites and nibbles. The house smells beautifully of coffee that I won’t drink, and I pour myself a glass of water instead.

Today is day number two of my fast, and it is, so far, harder than day number one. I knew it would be, but I am determined, and so I write to ease my mind away from the lingering thoughts of the eggs I made my daughter for breakfast.

Part of me wishes I didn’t enjoy food so much, that I hadn’t married a man who loves food as much as I do, but it is one of the little things in life that makes us happy. I may not like cooking, but once I’ve made a meal and sit down at the table to eat it, I relish every bite, licking my fingers even as my grandmother’s voice admonishes me in my head that licking my fingers is bad table manners.

My fasting is intermittent, which, for me, means that I will eat once a day. The fasting is to re-center myself on my keto diet after I went rogue on vacation last week. We spent a week with my husband’s family, sixteen of us all together for the first time in years, and we celebrated that. We ate out exclusively, and I did not make the best choices. There was fried chicken and pizza, roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, salad and soup in a bread bowl. So much of it was delicious, and almost all of it was not part of my diet, but I don’t really regret it. What would be the point of that?

Instead of regret, I’m just going to re-focus back on my diet and get my eating under control again. That’s all I can do. Vacation is vacation, and mine is over. I will fast for a few days, and then get back on my keto diet. During my fast, I’m starting with dinners. Last night was a keto chicken pesto casserole with feta cheese and salad. It was delicious. Tonight will be a keto meat pie, which may not sound very good if you’ve never had it, but, trust me, it’s amazing.

The hard part of this will be going through the carb and sugar withdrawals again, but all I can do is take things one temptation at a time. No, I will not eat that peach. No, I will not have that ice cream. No, I will not eat that entire loaf of bread. It’s like an addiction for me, one I may always have to fight, but I can do this.

And I’m learning. Yesterday I got a keto cookbook and there may be later posts where I tell you all about how I had hot chocolate for breakfast or tiramisu for dessert. But for now – one day at a time.

Dinner is cooking, my one meal, its aroma wafting through the kitchen and into the living room to find me, to remind me that deliciousness is not far off. Vacation eating may be over, but healthy eating isn’t so bad.

Looking in the Mirror


I look in the mirror each day and pick out the parts of me that I like, turning and preening to find the best angle to see my lips, my eyes. I ignore my nose, my lump of a chin, the cheeks that have filled out more than I would like. Some days I forget I’m no longer twenty-five or even thirty-five, and the face that greets me in the mirror is shocking and unfriendly.

I look in the mirror and brush my hair. It has become dry, frizzy. Silver lines shoot through chestnut waves, and I gather up my shoulder-length locks into a messy bun. I look middle-aged in an unpleasant way. I look tired.

Age has crept up on me as I argued with children, kept the house clean, made dinner, read novels, took vacations. Age closed its skeletal fingers over my body until one day I looked up and noticed the wrinkles around my eyes, the sag around my jaw line, until one day I finally felt older. And I could rage against it, but what could my anger do against the inevitable passage of time?

Recently, I have let my age settle around my shoulders like a blanket, or perhaps a shawl. I have curled into my heavier body, my wrinkles, my grey hairs and said, “This is what I am now. It was always going to come to this,” and I wait to get older and more grey and more wrinkled.

Now I look in the mirror and expect to see the older me, the middle-aged mom, the one who is not cool, the one who doesn’t understand all the memes, who ‘just doesn’t get it’. And I see her, and she is me, but there, underneath the tired, beneath the uncool is the other me. She’s younger, she’s fiery, and she is waiting for me to let her back in.

But I don’t know how.

I cannot remove the wrinkles, but I am losing the weight. I cannot remove the grey hair, but I can color it. I may never understand all the memes, but I can listen as my son shares them anyway. Would that be enough? I look in the mirror again and toss my frizzy mop of hair around. It hangs on to my head, boring, as bored with me as I am with it. Maybe, I think, I should cut it short. Maybe, I should cut it really short.

Maybe, I’m an idiot.

Short hair is for young people, skinny people, beautiful people, trendy people, funky people. Short hair is for all the people that I’m not. Even as I scroll through styles on the internet, even as I linger over images of asymmetrical pixie cuts, I tell myself it’s not for me. I can’t wear that style. I would look ridiculous. I’m just a middle-aged mom, after all.

I look in the mirror, trying to see me – not the younger me wishing we hadn’t wasted our youth, not the present me who has settled into middle age as if it were an over-stuffed armchair sitting by a roaring fire. I look to see me – the me I want to be right here and now. I smile at her, a small and tentative unfurling of my lips. She smiles back. Yes, she has wrinkles and silver strands shooting through shoulder-length brown hair, but she’s not tired. She laughs at stupid memes, she rolls her eyes and makes bad jokes, she keeps up with the Energize bunny of a daughter at her feet. Because she would not look ridiculous with short hair. She would rock the hell out it.




asym pixix


A Little Box of Grief


Grief has a way of settling in, of crawling into the bones and marrow and organs of a body until it nests quietly within, like a cancer. It cannot be extracted. It can only be accepted and felt in whatever form it takes when it chooses to surface.

Mother’s Day often holds the threat of grief for me, and I walk toward the day with a soft step this year, disquiet building inside.

This year, memories of my son threaten to overwhelm me. His eyes, his smile, his bear-crushing hugs. All the life of him I can remember for the seventeen years he was alive. He was born on Mother’s Day when I was barely nineteen years old, and I should have been terrified, but I was too young to understand. Instead, I was hopelessly in love with this tiny new life that was mine to care for and protect.

He would have been twenty-five this year, and I’ve asked myself: Who would he be now? What would he look like? What kinds of conversations would we have had? So many questions that burn in my mind. Questions that will never have answers.

The last time I ever spoke to him was on Mother’s Day, his birthday. We talked for half an hour. Things that had before been awkward with us somehow resolved. Jokes and laughter flowing between us again, steady as a river. He spoke of his life as all teenagers do, as if it had no end and all things were possible. We spoke of his coming visit for the summer, and him driving so far for the first time. We spoke of everything and nothing until a comfortable quiet lapsed between us, and when we hung up, I felt happy. The sun shone bright, the air was clear. All I remember feeling was love.

And then, a month later, he was gone. Suddenly, tragically gone.

There was no one to blame. No where to throw my anger and my pain. There was just fate or God or the universe. Or perhaps there was nothing at all, and it was only a senseless accident. No answer is ever right. But I was left with a hole, with questions, with pain and guilt and every other grisly feeling that comes with death.

So I pushed it all down. I boxed it up and shoved it to the back of my heart to open little by little as I was able. It’s not something I can deal with all at once, even after eight years. I was never strong enough to face the loss of him head on; I’m still not.

Now another Mother’s Day comes around, and this year my little box of grief threatens to surface, to make me acknowledge it, though I would rather not linger in the past when I have my future still surrounding me. Two children who will smile at me on Sunday and tell me Happy Mother’s Day. They will offer me flowers and presents and an outing. My daughter will tell me several times how much she loves me, and my teenage son will grunt at me, smiling from the corner of his shifting moods, which is as much as any hug. My husband will try and make my day a happy one. It is all any mother could ask for.

And I will smile in the face of it, returning hugs and grunts. I will focus on one moment after the next, living fully in my present until the day is done. Only then will I find a quiet place to settle down with my grief, to unpack my box of misery and allow myself to remember, to cry for the absent child, for the one I still hopelessly love.


When Nothing Happens


Nothing is happening. For months, so many things have happened, so many things that I’ve ached with exhaustion, mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, now nothing is happening, and it feels uncomfortable, like an itch on the bottom of my foot while I’m driving.

There’s too much quiet when nothing happens. A quiet that thrums in my ears, the same way the world sounds hours after leaving a concert. A ticking, humming quiet that metastasizes into something more, filling my body with hollowed out cavities where the buzzing of life used to be.

These are the periods in which I long to go, to break free from the nothingness and the quiet and make some noise again. I want to take road trips, exploring weird roadside attractions or beautiful out-of-the-way places that no one really goes anymore. I want to visit friends I haven’t seen in too long, and at my worst, I want to move again, pack up my life in boxes and travel somewhere new or maybe somewhere old.

This need in me is something that my husband was once attracted to, was once a facet of me that he adored. No longer. Now, I think, he’s grown tired, and I can’t blame him. He’d like to settle somewhere, plant roots, spread branches, live fully in one place, but the very thought of it terrifies me. The idea of staying instead of going makes me instinctively want to run.

Because nothing would happen.

But I’m supposed to want a home, roots, branches. I’m supposed to be happy going on vacation instead of moving somewhere new. There are so many things I’m supposed to want but I don’t, a mold I’m supposed to fit into but I don’t, a pre-fabricated life that I should be happy to have – but I don’t.

Because I’m afraid that nothing would happen.

Like now. There is laundry and grocery shopping, making dinner and watching TV. There are birthday parties and 8th grade dances, veterinary appointments and eye exams. There is the mundane in a world filled with so much more, and I often feel like a criminal for wanting all the more the world has to offer. I feel like a thief who is stealing from my family because the need in me to go, to explore, to run as far and as fast as I can into something new, takes away from the stability, away from the mundane.

I ask myself: Does this make me a bad wife? A bad mother? I don’t know the answers to that. I would ask for forgiveness, but that would imply that I’ve done something wrong, that what I am is wrong, when what I am is simply different. Sometimes, I think I’ve done this life wrong, that if I was allowed a ‘do-over’ then maybe I could get it right, find the balance I seem to be missing now, but I don’t get that choice. Right now, my life is clusters of too much happening at once and nothing happening at all. Right now, I must listen to the quiet that itches, that makes me want to run, and not run.

Because nothing is happening.


Instructions on Cooking


So, I’m not a good cook. I can’t tell you what flavors go with what. I’m only guessing when it comes to mixing and matching a main dish with a side. And I can’t eyeball a teaspoon of seasoning in the palm of my hand. Hell, I sweat it when the recipe calls for a ‘pinch’ of something. I mean, how much is a pinch? What if you have really large fingers, or really small fingers? Just whose fingers are the standard for a pinch of something?

So, no, I’m not a good cook, but what I can do is follow a recipe.

When I cook, which is often, especially now that I’m on my low-carb life-style change, I follow a recipe. I plan my time accordingly, and as often as not, what I do takes me twice as long as the recipe says. Can we all say, “Thanks prep work!” This means, after much frustration and swearing and throwing of things, that I now have to start cooking even earlier than I already do. Let me tell you why this sucks.

Not only am I not a good cook, I really dislike cooking. Like, if I met cooking in a dark alley, I would beat it senseless, take all its valuables and run away laughing into the night. It’s that kind of hate (which I have for nothing else on this planet, I swear). So, to have to start making dinner at 4:30 in order to have everything ready to eat by six is more of a burden to me than the thought of sending my kids to college.

Take today, for instance. Today I was going to make tuna salad for lunch. I’d found a recipe that looked delicious (yes, I need a recipe for tuna salad – don’t judge me), and after I fed my daughter her pb&j on a tortilla cut to look like shark teeth, I opened up my computer to start making my tuna salad. I scanned the list of ingredients. Yes, I had everything. Then I moved to the instructions:

Step 1: cook bacon, boil egg, chop onion

Okay, that is not step one. Boiling eggs has at least three steps all by itself. And do you know how long it takes to cook bacon? For me, because I’m snooty about it, it takes about 20 minutes. Step 1 – whatever! All that mess should have been in the prep work, which is usually listed in the ingredients. Let’s just say, my tuna salad was nothing like the recipe today.

And this happens to me again and again. You think I’d learn, but I see a yummy looking photo, a reasonable list of ingredients, and a short to moderate number of instructions, and I’m sold. Especially if it looks easy – like the tuna salad. A good therapist might say my cooking skills are the very definition of insanity.

I’ve done what I can to mitigate my prep time. I finally got a food processor (yes, I’ve been doing everything by hand. I said don’t judge), and it’s made things so much easier. I’m also back to trying out crockpot recipes, which I’ve never really liked. You think I can’t cook now? My crockpot meals are usually more like casualties from some horror film, but more frightening because you don’t have to eat dead people.

But I try, and I guess I’ll keep on trying. There’s really not much else I can do. One day, fingers crossed, perhaps my kitchen and I will find better common ground than my love of eating.

The Swedish Chef is the patron saint of my kitchen.

Diet Is Not a Dirty Word


Diet – a dirty word. Whispered in corners by those who’ve tried and failed. Some refuse to say the word, or think it, even if they’re on a diet. Others swallow the word like bile rising in the backs of their throats.


It’s freaking scary.

Now, I have gained a lot of weight (and for me that’s like 30 pounds) over the past couple of years, some because of my medications, most because I like food and beer. I also have a husband who enjoys food as much as I do, and restraint is not our best trait. So while I like eating, what I don’t like is not being able to paint my toenails because my gut is in the way. So, I am going to lose it. And that, my little love bunnies, is a promise.

I have been healthy (yet curvy) my whole life, and all this extra weight does not sit well on me. I’m not big-boned, I’m just fat, and I’ve struggled to find the right way for me to take the pounds off. I’ve tried low-fat, low calorie, vegetarian (that lasted about 2 weeks) and I always put the weight back on.

I’ve exercised until my brains had muscles – pilates, spin, yoga, kickboxing, P90X, cardio like a mother (not a program, just a lot of cardio). And I do end up having muscle, but it just sits heavy underneath the fat.

This time, I’m going low carb – think Atkins or Keto. I really should have done this sooner because I am a carb-loving fiend. I was probably Italian in another life. Hell, I was probably pasta in another life. Which means I’ve gotta cut the carbs.

So today is day three of my new eating regimen, and guess what? I’m not hungry. Actually, look what I just ate for lunch:


And I couldn’t finish it! I gave a couple of slices of cheese to my daughter because “yellow cheese is her favorite and I really should learn how to share because sharing is nice and it’s what friends do and aren’t we friends, mom?” Too bad she didn’t want my leftover avocado or radish.

The other thing is that there was nothing on this plate that I didn’t like. There have been so many times I’ve tried a diet or tried to follow a meal plan that, frankly, I found gross. Not this time. Last night’s dinner was an Asian cabbage stir-fry, nicknamed ‘crack slaw’. And yes, it was that good. So good that I wanted more than what was on my plate, but I couldn’t eat more because I was full! Again!

So I’ve got all my fingers crossed on this one because I don’t just want to diet, I want to change my diet. Which should really be the whole point – weight loss just being a side effect. I mean if you look at the definition of diet, it’s not such a scary thing. It basically means the foods you eat and drink, and what I want is a healthy diet that I can maintain, not an unwanted change that ends as soon as I reach my ideal weight. So far, this has been good.

I’ll be honest though, I’m feeling rough today. Apparently, I’m going through the ‘keto-flu’ and it feels pretty awful. Mostly headaches and tiredness, but at least I’m not hungry. Oh, and I will fess up to having sugar in my coffee this morning. I’ve tried stevia and Splenda, and it’s just not happening. One cup of coffee. One. If I can’t have that, then I am just going to have to live with being fat until I die.

So wish me luck!

Di-et! Di-et! Di-et! DIET!!!



Daddy Issues


When someone dies…when someone you hardly know dies…when someone who was supposed to be your father but you hardly knew him dies – how do you reconcile that?

I’ve been estranged from my father for over twenty years, and I thought I’d come to terms with all my feelings of abandonment, that I’d dealt with all the anger and grief that belongs to needing an absent father, that I’d let all of it go. I honestly thought I’d settled my daddy issues, but when I got the call that he was dying, it was like the door hiding all of those dust covered skeletons was kicked in with a heavily booted foot.

I guess I could have ignored his death. I’m not the best daughter, after all, but the twenty-plus years of silence was never something that I wanted. There were times I tried to reach out to my father, but as I have been told over and over again, his brain just didn’t work like everyone else’s. He was schizophrenic, possibly bipolar as well, and that made him very hard to know. At least for me.

However, I have come to realize over the past two weeks that there are people who knew my father very well. He had friendships that he maintained for forty years. That there was a woman in his life who loved him, who spoke with him almost every day. That there were children whose lives he was a part of – children who were not me or my brother. And I’m angry, selfishly, petulantly angry.

I have heard stories of my father’s big heart, as big as the world is wide, it seems, and yet he had no space for me. I’ve been told that there are plenty of kids with absent fathers, so I’m not special because my dad was also absent, but fuck the fuck off. I needed my father. Why should that fact be diminished by statistics?

But my step-father adopted me, right? Didn’t I have a father?

Yes and no. My step-father is amazing and I love him, and there are no buts in this sentence. I just wanted my daddy, like all little girls, and while my step-father threw a baseball with me and taught me how to drive and came looking for me when I stayed out too late, the absence of my birth father felt like rejection.

I have carried that feeling of rejection my whole life. It sits side by side with my feelings of inadequacy during those days of depression when I sit and count my flaws. And I know that I am oversimplifying a very complex issue, but sometimes, when I feel swallowed up by the dark, the thoughts that press down on me, that squeeze my heart like a vice, are very simple: I am not good enough. And perhaps this stems from the loss of a man who I thought hung the moon and made the sun rise.

So I am not sure what I am grieving. Is it the loss of my father, a man who was lost to me most of my life, or is it the loss of opportunity, a door that had been only closed, now locked forever? I don’t know.

Going through my father’s apartment to help get his things in order, I realized there were things I knew about him that remained true: he still played the guitar, he still carved artwork from wood, he was still a jeans-and-button-up-shirt kind of guy. But I also realized I didn’t know him at all. I didn’t know his cologne or the type of music he listened to or what he liked to watch on television. His odd collection of compasses and knives scattered around his apartment were endearing, but nothing I could connect to the man I knew.

I am reminded again and again that he loved me, but I wonder what love is when you can’t feel it. Maybe he loved me, but I spent most of my life unaware of that love. There was no comfort in it, no opportunity for me to reciprocate. There was only silence. Perhaps for my father, that was the only way he could love me, but to me it feels like he just didn’t try.



Teeter Totters & Merry-Go-Rounds


I was watching my daughter and some other kids playing on the playground earlier today, and I stood in awe, shock, and sometimes horror. Occasionally, I closed my eyes and only peeked through my fingers.

The playground had the usual playscape and assorted accoutrements – swings, weird animals and cars on giant springs that rocked back and forth, slides, a sad little sandbox. Children of various ages ran hither and yon, which I am assuming means all over the damn place, laughing, screaming, yelling and crying; although, one was very quiet and yet seemed maniacally happy. Regardless, it was pandemonium, which means it was a paradise for kids.

And I get why. I used to love the playground when I was little – who didn’t? In fact, I sometimes find myself looking for the merry-go-round or the teeter totters, my personal favorites, only to remember that they have been deemed unsafe, and, therefore, banned from the modern playground.

My daughter will never know what it was like to precariously balance the teeter totter perfectly in the middle with a friend, or walk across it, hoping not to fall and bust her face when the higher half of it began careening towards the ground faster than she expected. She won’t know the joy of getting someone lighter than her up at the high end of the teeter totter and then jumping off to watch them crash to the ground. Oh man! Those were the days.

And don’t even get me started on the nauseating death wheel that was the merry-go-round. There were only two speeds: fast enough for children to fly off due to centrifugal force and stopped. To be able to walk wobbly-legged but somehow still stay upright away from the merry-go-round was a sign of strength, but to fall only led to hilarity, not shame. It was the perfect equalizer on the playground.


Somehow, though, these beautiful contraptions have vanished from American parks.

But children are still children, or more accurately, most children are insane little thrill monkeys, and the rest are playing with the giant-sized xylophone at the other end of the park. Mine is a thrill monkey, and she can find a way to make almost any element of the playground deadly.

The slide? Let’s launch headfirst down the ramp into a tuck and roll. Those rocker thingys that look like animals or cars on a giant spring? Yeah, those are just miniature catapults. The tire swing? That’s the new merry-go-round. It’s like child-sized American Ninja Warrior out there, and my daughter loves every minute of it, and she’ll do it all in a flashy skirt, her BFF kitty t-shirt, and leopard ballet flats.

I’m sure you are asking, “Why don’t you stop her?”

Well, I do when I feel she is in eminent danger or a danger to other children, but most of the time I let her play. The last thing she needs to grow into a strong and confident woman is the hover mom I want to be. I mean, think about it: I survived, you survived.

She will survive.

Can I get a little Gloria Gaynor amen!

Image result for gloria gaynor

Just Say Goodbye When You Leave


Yesterday, I kind of demanded that my son say goodbye to me every time he leaves the house. Is that weird? It kinda is, right?

Okay, let me explain:

Yesterday, my son left for school without saying anything to me. At all. He was just gone. I had a momentary panic attack and then let it go. But I guess I didn’t because later, when he was leaving to go to his friend’s house, he almost did the same thing until I brought him up short.

“You know,” I said, “You left yesterday without saying anything to me. Not even goodbye, mom.”

“Yeah, well, you know how I am in the mornings.” (And that’s true, I do know how he is. He’s like me, but I can at least muster up a two-syllable word.)

“Not good enough,” I said. “You need to let me know you’re leaving. Even if you don’t want to say anything else, you give me the chance to say, Have a good day, or I love you. What if something happens, and the day goes to shit? What if one of us isn’t here when the other gets back?”

“Man, mom, way to take it to a dark place.”

I did go a bit down the rabbit hole, but that’s not the point. And this is more than just school shootings and shitty bus drivers, and he knows it.

“When your brother died, we hadn’t spoken to each other or had any type of real conversation in six months. Because of something stupid, because of pride and stubbornness. We had just one conversation right before his accident, and it wasn’t enough,” I said. “It’s important to say goodbye every time, even if we’re mad at each other or tired or whatever.”

My son nodded. “I won’t forget, mom,” he said. “I’ll say goodbye.”

Then he left and went to his friend’s house. This morning he remembered to say goodbye even though he was late and running out the door.

And now there is part of me that feels terrible about what I said. I never use his brother to cause guilt or to manipulate behavior. When I speak of his brother, I talk about funny things, positive things, how they’re similar, how they’re wonderfully different. I talk about him to remember him, to keep him alive.

But sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that when my son walks out the door now, I won’t see him again, so I say I love you and have a good day as much as I can, and he squirms under my love and fear. I can see it in the way he hunches his shoulders, in the way he ducks his head as if dodging something. I won’t stop though because I know he needs to hear it as much as I need to say it.

Before my oldest son died, I sent him a letter on his birthday, which fell on a Mother’s Day that year. He was born on Mother’s Day, so it was perfect timing, really. The letter was filled with all the memories I had of him before he could remember me. It was filled with my love and accompanied by photographs of us when he was still little enough that he wanted my hugs and kisses. He had the letter and the photographs in the car with him when he died, and even though I should have realized it sooner, he had needed me to tell him how much I loved him as much as I needed to know that he loved me, too.

A letter. A Photograph. A word. A hug. A mom having a freak out moment in the kitchen. It all means the same thing, and all of it is important.



I Don’t Need a Salad to be Healthy


I don’t like salads. There. I said it.

I have tried to like a salad. I have done everything in my power to enjoy those bowls of leaves and vegetables that are healthy for me. I’ve added meat and fish and eggs – things I actually enjoy. I’ve added fruit and nuts – other things I find palatable. But nothing works unless…

Unless there’s dressing.

And I’m not talking about some healthy balsamic or oil and vinegar shit. Noooo. I mean something good, something with flavor, and quite often, something paired with ranch. Like today’s salad was dressed in lime avocado ranch.

Sounds healthy, right? WRONG!

That freakin salad dressing was 310 calories – just about the same amount of calories as my bowl of leaves and chicken. But I will tell you this – I would not have eaten that salad without it.

I don’t know how many of you out there are the same – wanting to be healthy, hearing about these so-called healthy salads, slathering them in sauce just to feel like you’ve eaten something that has taste. Maybe I’m alone in this, I don’t know, but I have to tell you this right now:

I’m done with the lies!

I’m done with salads.

There are better ways to eat healthy, and I am going to find them. The interwebs are full of sites like and that have healthy meals that aren’t salads and that actually taste good. Because honestly, to me, that’s the important part – the taste.

As someone who grew up in the South where there is salt and/or sugar in everything, where we cook our greens with bacon, and where the sweet tea could send you into a diabetic coma, I grew up with flavorful food, Paula-Dean-before-she-got-skinny foods.

I don’t want to sacrifice taste, but I also don’t want to be unhealthy. I’m trying to cut out sweets and alcohol and all those sweet, sweet carbs. So what’s left? I’m still figuring that out, and whatever it is, it better have some fucking flavor.

And from now on…

diet dieting GIF by Bobbi DeCarlo

Cultural Awareness: Feeling Beautiful and Awkward


I wore a hijab to lunch this weekend.

Saturday was World Hijab Day, a day I was unaware existed, and my friend had students who had set up a hijab booth downtown and were giving away free hijabs and demonstrating how to wear them. I was totally on board.

My friend and I picked out our scarves, all donated by hijab manufacturers just for this day. They were beautiful. Mine had pale pink flowers on a white background, while my friend found a soft lilac colored scarf. We waited our turns to be dressed appropriately.

We were given the under piece, which is like a sock without toes, to pull over our heads. Mine was a vivid blue that I could not get on right for the life of me because I don’t work well without a mirror apparently. Then one of the volunteers showed me a very simple way of securing the head scarf, wrapped the ends around my neck, and I was ready to go. And standing there at the hijab booth with so many other women and girls of all ages also wearing hijabs, I felt comfortable and beautiful and happy.

But as my friend and I wandered off to get lunch, those feelings drifted away. I began to worry about what other people would think when they saw me. We walked into a restaurant that, while not far from the hijab booth, had no other women wearing hijabs. I began to fidget with my scarf. I was uncomfortably aware of my otherness, especially sitting there with another non-Muslim woman wearing a head covering. I was aware of everything I was and was not in relation to that scarf.

Still, I wore it all through lunch and even during my ride back home. I wore it inside to show my husband and my children, answering their questions: What is that? Why are you wearing it? Where did you get it? Because that was the point, or at least part of the point – to get my children to see, acknowledge, and ask questions about something unfamiliar to them.

But it bothers me that I was so bothered to wear my hijab that afternoon. I felt a deep sense of disparity and wondered if it was because I was not Muslim, or because I was in a deep red Southern state. I wondered if this was yet another flaw in my character.

The next day, as I was getting ready to leave my house, however, I wanted to put my hijab back on. At first, it was because I didn’t want to do my hair, but I also wanted to feel the sense of security that having my head wrapped up had given me when I was standing next to the hijab booth. I wanted to wear my lovely new scarf and feel beautiful, but I didn’t.

Because wouldn’t that have been cultural appropriation? Wouldn’t that have been disrespectful? Wouldn’t that have been misleading? A hijab is not a fashion accessory; it’s part of an identity, right?

So, I’m confused. World Hijab Day made me very aware of what it was like to physically wear a hijab, and it made me mindful of how much I stood out wearing one where I live, but I don’t know if it made me any more aware of how Muslim women feel wearing the hijab. I don’t know if they feel the same sense of otherness I did, or if they feel more secure in themselves and their identity as Muslim women.

All I can say is that it was a day of awkward beauty for me, and I’m grateful for the experience.



The Cost of Living


I almost killed my cat.

You’ve met Chuck Norris, right? He’s my little ginger pygmy cat, a sweet and loving little badass who hasn’t been the healthiest bean since we got him. I’ve taken him to the vet several times for shots and check ups, and I’ve been assured at every turn that he was fine. His weight was fine; he was just a small cat. Throwing up was fine; all cats throw up.

But he was not fine. He was slowly dying.

While I was away visiting my mother, Chuck Norris began vomiting blood. My husband took him to the vet who said they would keep Chuck for a few days. He couldn’t urinate on his own. He was dehydrated. He was underweight. He could die if not treated.

So for a few days, we waited, and the end result was that Chuck Norris would need to have surgery. Now, for most people, this might seem like an easy decision, a do or don’t choice, but for me and my husband it wasn’t. The cost would end up somewhere around $3000, money we didn’t have for a cat we’d only had for six months.

Now let’s stop a minute and look at what else factored into this: I am out of work, and my husband is struggling to support us; due to a misplaced checkmark on a form, my unemployment money has yet to come in; my daughter and I were fighting the flu; and PMS had just kicked in for me. Could it be any worse?

Yes, it could. Because my husband and I were struggling with each other over this decision. He was financially focused on how much debt the surgery would incur, and I was emotionally unable to make a decision that would kill my cat. We’d just caught up on our bills and felt a bit steady for the first time in months, and then this. It felt so unfair.

Rizzo, Chuck’s older brother, was also voicing his opinion. He began wandering around the house, crying and being extra lovey. He was talking more, which he’s never done, and cuddling everyone when all he’d ever been was classically aloof. It was clear he missed Chuck. Can you hear my heart breaking?

Some people might say, “It’s just a cat,” and I guess they’re right in their world. However, in my world, I made a promise when I adopted my cats. I promised to be their person, to take care of them and be responsible for them. I don’t get to back out when times are hard. Thankfully, my husband agreed.

So, Chuck Norris had surgery and is recovering. He’s tried to pop off his cone of shame more times than I can count. I suck at giving him his medicine. I’ve had to sleep in the guest room with him to make sure he doesn’t get the collar off at night, and so I’ve foregone any decent sleep. I’m still sick with the flu, and in so many ways it all sucks.

But Chuck is getting a bit fatter. He’s not throwing up any more. He’s happier, I think, even with the cone of shame. His butt is shaved and he looks like a baboon from behind. His two front legs are shaved so he looks kind of like a poodle in the front. But his face, snugged into his velcro cone, is still that of my sweet boy.

The vet valued the cost of his life at $3000, but I don’t think I could ever put a price on life.


Disney World: The Dark Side


Enochlophobia – a fear of large crowds                                                                                            (which, while I can tolerate it, is one of my special quirks)

So, I took my daughter to Disney World this weekend, and she went nuts! I, however, should probably not be allowed in places like that.

Why, you ask? Well, I think we’ve already established that for me people are only  acceptable in short doses or from a distance. Neither of those things exist at the Magic Kingdom. Still, my daughter was over the moon, so I tried to keep up with her enthusiasm. (I may fail at motherhood often, but I keep on trying.)

I mean, I like Disney. I’ve watched most of the movies, even the new Star Wars, and I have rewatched them with my kids. I know all the princesses; although, I prefer the villains most of the time. Seriously, give me a pissed off Maleficent over the sugar-sweet Aurora any day. I’m just saying, I’m not an anti-Disneyite. I’m just anti-people.

Regardless, I put on my happy face, grabbed my daughter’s pudgy little hand, and dove into the crowds. She saw the monorail and was like “Cool!” so I was like “Cool!” She met  princess Merida and was like, “That was awesome!” So, I took pictures and said, “That was so awesome!” We flew rocket ships and were like “hell yeah!” Well, I was was – in my head, not out loud, because she doesn’t cuss yet.

But the tide turned when we rode the Buzz Lightyear ride and had to shoot the aliens. My girl got scared and screeched into my ear. Her shrieks were like ice picks stabbing into the soft tender palate of my ear drums, and I spent the rest of the ride with my hands over her ears to protect her from the aliens and trying to stop her from making that God-awful noise again.

The rest of the afternoon turned into a series of smiles with meltdowns in between.

That’s when I began to see the dark side of Disney. The people I tried to ignore before, the ones who walked across my path and stopped right in front of me. The fast passers with money enough to skip to the front of the line. The ones pushing ten year olds in strollers. They all began to grate against my already sensitive social anxiety.

My mind began its internal dialogue, ranting at all the socially unconscious pedestrians: “What is wrong with you? Don’t stop walking in front of me!” “Why does Disney have to shove the fast pass people in my face? I may not have as much money, but I still paid an assload to get in, too.” “If the kid can’t walk, don’t bring him to Disney! What the hell kind of parent are you?” (This last bit did not apply to handicapped kids, I promise.)

When I saw what looked like a bum sleeping on a bench near the carousel, I was done. Thankfully, so was my daughter.

We headed back to the monorail and then to our Peter Pan parking spot. She had stories to tell, and I had pictures to post. We have memories that we can look back on with rose-colored glasses.

But the exhaustion after a day like that is so much more than physical for me. Keeping my anxiety under control, not running from the park screaming, or huddling in a corner crying was a challenge, but days like that are not about me. They are about her, and that’s all that matters.


Blow This!


My neighbor is obsessed with his leaf blower.

It’s January. The leaves have fallen. All of them. They’re gone. Yet, my neighbor is outside with his leaf blower for hours. Okay, maybe not hours, but at least one hour a day. The wheeee-wheeee of his little electric lawn and garden tool breaks the lovely quiet of the neighborhood, and after about forty minutes, I want to go outside and assault him with pine cones.

Now, perhaps I should understand his obsessive behavior. I have my own – let’s call them quirks – but this man stands in his yard and blows the leaves that fall from my tree back in to my yard – one by one!

I try to be respectful of his own personal brand of crazy. My husband and I rake our leaves to our side of our invisible line. We bag them up and send them off to the dump for composting or whatever they do there.

We try, but almost daily, the neighbor is out there. Wheeee-wheeee. Sometimes he stands there and revs up his little leaf blower like it’s idling for the green light at the Indy 500. Wheee-wheee-wheeeeeeeeeee. And OMG!!! I’m going crazier.

There are things I love about winter, and even though I’m now in the South, they still hold true most of the time. No bugs; cold, crisp air that sometimes carries the scent of a wood-burning fire; and quiet. This last one I love the most. The quiet of winter is a beautiful and almost physical thing that makes me extremely happy. More than that, it makes me calm.

And here comes this asshat with his obsessive-compulsive leaf-blowing bullshit!        (trying to breathe deeply here)

It’s a good thing I don’t have a basket of pine cones at the ready the way my grandmother used to. Granted, she kept them more for decoration than as grenades, but still…

I know I’m not the best neighbor. I don’t even know what goes into being a good neighbor anymore. Mostly, I wave, what Jerry Seinfeld called a ‘hey neighbor’. I try not to be obnoxious, meaning I try to be as invisible as possible. I don’t really want to know my neighbors, probably because I don’t want them to know me.

I don’t like people much. I mean, I love people. They’re interesting and weird and hilarious, but only from a distance.

So, I can’t go out and ask my neighbor to stop with the leaf blower. That would make me the obnoxious one. The weird one. And then there’d be awkwardness and maybe even conversation. Then I might have to move because I wouldn’t be able to look at him again, much less be seen by him. It’s too much to even think about.

And now, I have to sit and listen to the whiny cry of my neighbor’s leaf blower, wondering what he’s blowing since there are no leaves, wondering if he’s blowing stuff into my yard, wondering how long he will be out there blowing nothing around this time, and complaining to myself about what a bad neighbor I am.



I Can’t Look


I have remembered music!

I know that sounds stupid. I mean, who forgets music, but I got new headphones for Christmas. Like, the best headphones I’ve ever owned in my entire life headphones. I can put them on, and without even turning on the noise canceling button, I can block out most of my life. It’s amazing!

Because my life consists a lot of my five-year-old daughter saying, “Mom! Look at this!” and then showing me something I neither care about nor understand. Sometimes she wants me to look at nothing. Literally. She’ll say, “Mom! Look at this!” and I’ll look because I try to be a good mom, and she makes a weird face and laughs and runs away. What am I supposed to do with that?

There are days when I tell her that I won’t look at her for the rest of the day.

Sometimes I tell her my name is Anita and that I will only speak in Spanish, or more accurately, “Mi nombre es Anita. Solo hablo espanol.” And then I’ll say “que?” whenever she says something in English. She doesn’t find it funny, but I laugh and laugh and laugh.

Once we were out somewhere, one of those days when I had to leave the house or lose my sanity, and she said, “Mom! Look at this!”

Despite the fact that it was not even noon, I had already been worn down. My neck was beginning to feel sore from turning to look. My brain hurt from too much activity. My response time lagging. So, without looking, I said, “Nope. I’m done looking. Actually, you’re going to have to drive home because my eyes are so tired.”

“I can’t drive!”

“You have to. If I open my eyes to look at one more thing, they’ll pop right out.”


“You’re darn right, ew.”

And from somewhere behind me, I heard laughter. I don’t know if it was a man or a woman because I wasn’t paying attention, but I felt another soul connect. Someone else at some time had been asked to look at too much or had heard their parental title called too often. It was the sound of I’ve been there. God, do you even know how good that feels?

There are times when I feel so alone with my daughter, and I wonder how badly I’m screwing her up. Am I screwing her up in a good way? I mean, I won’t know until it’s too late, but I really can’t be any other kind of mother, so what’s the point in worrying? Still, I worry. It’s the motherly thing to do, right?

And now – now! – I have new headphones. I feel like Candide in the best of all possible worlds (and if you don’t get that reference, go read Candide by Voltaire. So good). Now I can see my daughter and her crazy faces and her pointing to her tablet or her toys, and I can mimic her or simply smile and nod without having to hear her say a dozen times, “Mom! Look at this!”

Now I can listen to my Spotify mix of the day, or whatever I’m in the mood to listen to, and write or clean or do nothing without having to lose my sanity. And I can still hear her, a muffled sound that means nothing, just barely audible, but that draws my attention.

A kinder, gentler “Mom! Look at this!”



Resolutions: Resolving Not To


This year I resolve not to make any New Year’s resolutions.

However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t plan on making changes to my life. 2017 was a pretty shitty year, and I’d like not to have a repeat. So, as Sam Cooke would say, “Change is gonna come.” Here’s the plan:

  1. Get involved in some activist shit. Women’s empowerment, get rid of assholes in government, march on the capital. Something! I’ve always given myself excuses not to be involved, but this is going to be a big year, and I want to be part of it. If you have ideas of how to be involved, leave them in the comments below. I’ve got a few ideas, but I’d love to hear more.
  2. Write more. Get that novel draft finished. Send out some essays to literary mags. Keep the blog going. Writing saves my life in so many ways, and there have been times when I let it go because I was too tired, too depressed, too dysfunctional to keep going. Not this year. I will write many, many words. Clearly, congruently, and coherently. Amen.
  3. Lose weight. Everyone says this, I know, but I have a more specific goal. Thirty pounds by the end of the year. That’s doable, right? Quit the drinking, cut down on carbs, find a way to like salads. More fish. Less chips. I can do this, and I would like you guys to hold me accountable. Pop in and ask, “Hey! How’s the battle of the bulge?” or something like that.
  4. Do yoga. This is part of number three, but also part of staying sane. I have done all types of exercise: P90X, Beach Body, spin classes, kickboxing, etc. I used to do yoga a long time ago without really understanding how it would benefit me. It was just an ‘it’ thing to do. Now, I’d like to get into yoga for my physical and mental health. I’d like my body to feel better, but I also really need my brain to chill the fuck out before it kills me. (Jenny Lawson @thebloggess has lots to say on this last bit. If you don’t know who she is, I’m sad for you. Please check out her book, Furiously Happy. She is my hero in so many ways).

Okay, that’s my laundry list. NOT A LIST OF RESOLUTIONS! Just a list of things I’d like to get done – like the laundry (which I actually need to do today), or grocery shopping, or picking the kids up from school.

If you have a list of NOT RESOLUTIONS for the year, let me know. Maybe I’ll write a post in a few months to see how everyone’s life is getting along. In the meantime…

Happy New Year!

(And 2017 – you can suck it.)

Fight or Flight: Or What I call, Menstruation Season


About once a month, I consider getting a divorce.

And then I realize, I’m just PMS-ing, so I don’t really consider a divorce. I just fantasize about it.

Mostly because I’m bipolar with recurrent bouts of severe depression, some mild anxiety and a little OCD. I am medicated, but those medications only buffer all the crazy underneath, and sometimes, especially when that time of the month hits, I go a little off the rails. PMS for me is a battle, one where everybody loses. And before meds, it was so much worse, which is a frightening thought.

This month, however, it’s not a flight response, but more of a fight response. This means that my poor husband probably needs to find some combat gear, hunker down in a fox hole, and wait out the storm.

Because there is no winning this. There is no fixing it. And there’s no help coming.

Like yesterday. I was irritated because – life. I had to do a load of laundry twice, the cat was whining at me, my daughter was being five years old, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. I couldn’t take it. Life chaffed at me like sandpaper against raw skin. This was not my husband’s fault, but who else was there? This is the ‘for worse’ part of marriage, and honestly, after 18 years together, he really should get me by now, don’t you think? Oddly, he doesn’t.

So, I picked a fight because this is what I do. Fight or flight, remember? I can’t run away. It’s dark and cold outside, and I’m in pajamas, and I’ve just realized that he left business cards in his pants that have gone through the washer. This means, I have to dry out the load of clothes and wash them again. So, I tell him as calmly as I could, that I no longer wish to do his laundry. I would rather just do my own from now on.

This, people, is a bluff. Did I mention my OCD tendencies? I can no more do just my own laundry and leave his sitting there than I can grow gills and breathe underwater. However, the statement gets across my pissed-off-ed-ness, which is all I wanted. But then, my husband does what he probably shouldn’t. He asks me, “What’s wrong?”

Okay, here’s the dilemma: Should I be honest?

Probably not, but I was anyway. Mistake. He didn’t want honesty. At least, not my biting, bitch-tastic style of honesty. So, in retaliation, he decides to mutter things under his breath, tidy up messes which have been sitting around for weeks, and then go upstairs. The door clicks shut.

This, to me, was abandonment.

I go sit in the dark, pull my knees up to my chest, and cry. Silently. Because I can’t let him know I’m crying. I don’t know how many women there are out there who have mastered the art of silent crying, but I’m one of them. I cry without sound to keep the children from hearing, to keep my husband from hearing, to keep myself from feeling like I’m completely and utterly hopeless. So, the tears run down my face in hot, angry streams. I cover my mouth with my hand, and hide my face in my knees. I am so quiet, that my husband doesn’t even know I’m there when he comes back down later.

I want to be invisible. I hate being invisible.

I want him to love me. I want him to fight with me.

I want him to hug me. I don’t want him to touch me.

This, my friends, is menstruation season. A hell of nature’s making made worse for me because of severe mood disorders. And even though I know that I’m not making sense, that my tears are releasing a pain that has no rational cause, I can’t stop them.

Fight or flight.


Find yourself a fox hole. It’s going to be a bumpy few days.

I Want My Own Room


Is it that too selfish? Is it too much to ask for?

I have been with the same man for over eighteen years, and I still love him – most of the time. We’ve shared the same bed, the same home, and the same life since we were young and stupid, but I still want to have a space of my own. A place where I can stay up reading as long as I like. A place where I don’t have to share the bed or the sheets or the air around me. My own bedroom. Not every night, that feels like a bit much, but some nights it would be nice.

Like last night. When my husband was having one of his serious snoring/snorting/choking-on-his-own-saliva kind of nights. On these nights, nothing I do works. Even when I poke and prod at him, or when I roll over in a huff, pulling half the blankets with me and say “Oh my God! Stop it!” he still continues to sound like he is suffocating in his sleep.

No, nights like these end with me taking a sleeping pill and waiting until I’m nodding off on the couch until I can go back upstairs to our bedroom and go to sleep. The problem with that is waking up the next morning, which is already an unpleasant affair, becomes more of a close-to-violent affair. As in, don’t touch me, or I’ll bite your fingers off.

Last night, sitting on the couch with the cats looking at me like, “What the hell are you doing down here at this time of night?” made me wish, not for the first time, for a separate bedroom. We do have a guest room in the house, but it’s not mine. There are no sheets on the bed, the comforter isn’t pretty, none of my books are on the nightstand, and it has a television in it, which my son sometimes uses to watch anime. See? Guest room.

So, as I curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, with my feet tucked into the cushions to keep warm, I debated the issue of where to sleep. I could sleep on the couch. The cats would probably leave me alone, but it’s a fucking couch. I mean, technically I’m not too old to sleep on a couch, but emotionally and mentally, I am. Sleeping on a couch has bad connotations for me, which would lead to bad dreams, which would lead to shitty sleep, which would lead to a morning that’s worse than me wanting to bite someone. So, no couch.

I could sleep in the guest room, but I would have to put sheets on the bed, and late at night, feeling the creeping effects of a sleeping pill take hold, I’m much too lazy to put sheets on a bed. Mostly because I have OCD tendencies, and there’s a lot of symmetry with sheets and tidy hospital corners involved in dressing the bed. I’d probably end up sleeping on the floor before I got the pillow cases on.

So, I waited a while longer until I began to nod off, catching my head on my knees. I jerked myself awake, shrugged off the blanket, apologized to the cats, and headed back to my bedroom. Of course, it’s quiet in there when I opened the door. My husband, sensing my absence, had stilled his gasping inhalations. Walking with my eyes half-closed, I stumbled over my own feet and half-fell into bed, pulling the blankets up to my chin.

“Are you okay?” my husband asked.

“Yeah,” I said because there’s no point in saying more.

“Okay,” he said and lay quietly for thirty blessed seconds. Then he began to wheeze softly. A wheeze which would become a gurgle, which would become a snore, which would become a snort, and then the whole cycle would begin again.

It wouldn’t matter this time, however, since in those soundless thirty seconds, I had fallen asleep.

Chuck Norris is Pissed at Me


Chuck Norris is my cat.

 IMG_0785 (Here’s his Puss in Boots look. Cute, right?)

He’s still a kitten; although, like the real Chuck Norris, he’s a little badass. He’s agile, feisty, and somehow lovable all at once. And when he’s scrapping with my other cat, Rizzo, who is twice Chuck’s size, it’s like watching that scene in Way of the Dragon where Bruce Lee rips out Chuck Norris’ chest hair when they’re fighting in the Roman Coliseum (insert your own Bruce Lee yell here – Whaayaaa!).

Except in my house, it’s Chuck Norris who wins. And currently, my Chuck Norris is pissed at me because I won’t let him go outside.

I honestly didn’t think he wanted to go outside since he runs from most noises and any kind of movement in his direction. But ever since Rizzo started going outside, Chuck sits at the sliding glass door, looking out on a world that he can only smell when his brother comes home.

So, why don’t I just let him out, you ask? Because he’s a little pygmy cat. (Is pygmy an okay word to use? Whatever. It’s true.)

Chuck Norris is barely five pounds. Sure, he can kick Rizzo’s fat-bottomed behind, but they’re brothers. What about the hoards of angry Canadian geese in our backyard, or the packs of ferocious squirrels in the trees, or whatever else roams our neighborhood? What if he gets scared and runs away and doesn’t come back? I mean, he already runs from shadows and freaks out about the tail attached to his own butt.

So, I don’t let him out. But today, when I shooed him away from the door to let Rizzo back inside, Chuck Norris gave me a look. It was kind of a glare but a bit more menacing. It was a look that said I needed to trim his claws or else become a pincushion. It was a look that said, “Sleep with one eye open, and pray I don’t figure out how to work a doorknob.”

So, I tried to pacify him with cat TV. We watched videos of fish and ducks and other cat-happy things. See? That’s me and Chuck watching ducks. He didn’t find the rhyming thing nearly as funny as I did, or the fact that I was watching ducks with Chuck Norris. Some jokes are just wasted…


I don’t think it worked. He still sits and stares out the window. Sometimes I’m sure I even hear him sigh. Needless to say, I’m a bit concerned. He is Chuck Norris, after all.

I mean, honestly, put that cat in a pair of jeans and give him a semi-automatic rifle, and things would spontaneously start blowing up, the national anthem would play, and all of the POWs from every war ever would be rescued.

I probably should have given him a different name. (Sleeping with one eye open from now on.)

A Modern American Grinch


I used to love Christmas. Honest.

But now, I just can’t seem to enjoy it. Maybe it’s the fact that Christmas decorations come out after Halloween, and Black Friday sales last for weeks. Maybe it’s the forced feeling of festivity or too much Christmas music.

I mean, it’s only the 11th and I feel like I’m behind schedule. I’m not really sure what schedule I’m behind since I don’t have one, but nevertheless, I feel a weight bearing down on me, and all I want to do is hide somewhere and drink a very large, very bottomless bottle of wine.

But I have kids, and as much as I would like to hide from Christmas in true Grinch style, I can’t. Charlotte is five and in prime Santa mode. We are keeping track of her nice and naughty days on the calendar. We have written the Christmas wish list and mailed it to the North Pole. We are attempting to do Christmas crafts. The tree is up, and a smattering of decorations are placed strategically around the house.

I have done my online shopping. I have smiled and said Merry Christmas to the people I see when I’m out in public. I have festive paper and bows ready to wrap all possible presents. I keep explaining to the cats that the Christmas tree is not for their personal enjoyment. But it drains me.

Actually, it exhausts me.

Why must I participate in Christmas? Or, better question: Why must America insist on a big, fat, ridiculous Christmas? Why the sixty-foot tree in Times Square, and why is every conceivable public space stuffed with ribbons and lights? And why must I pay to go see light displays? Twelve dollars a car to drive though a bunch of light bulbs is robbery. I mean, it’s light bulbs!

I know I’m ranting, but I’m tired of feeling forced into Christmas.

It’s like being at a bar and not wanting to drink, but everyone you’re with wants you to drink because you’re at a bar. And obviously, one must drink in order to have a good time at a bar. So, you drink. You get drunk. You’re hungover the next morning, and worse than your hangover is the feeling of regret ground in to you like shit on the bottom of your shoe.

Christmas has become like that for me. American Christmas anyway.

I think if Christmas was just a religious holiday for Christians, like Hanukah is for Jewish people, I’d be okay. I mean, you don’t see Jews getting ridiculous with musical menorahs, white and blue lights strung up all over their house, or giant stars of David displayed on every street corner and in the center of every mall. There’s no sixty-foot menorah being lit in times square. There are no Hanukah sales everywhere you turn. The radio is not flush with Adam Sandler or the Barenaked Ladies singing their Hanukah songs. No, Hanukah is quiet.

I wish Christmas was like that.

I grew up in the Catholic church, and Christmas used to be my favorite time of year to go to mass. The songs and the stories of Christ’s birth. The manger, the kings, the shepherds. The advent candles we lit one by one. And I loved going to midnight mass. It was always a quieter mass.

Like a whisper.

That was the magic that Christmas held for me. Presents were just a side-effect, a reward for being a good person all year. Yes, I loved presents. I was a kid. But I could never fully reconcile Santa Claus with Christ. Christ’s birth was the reason for Christmas. Santa was some pagan, magical elf-god handing out goodies for good behavior. I never understood how they got mixed together. I still don’t understand.

And now it seems that neither Christ nor Santa matter. What matters is what looks like Christmas – lights, presents, parties!

I miss the days when I loved Christmas. When I sang the songs and happily decorated my home. I miss feeling the warmth and joy that spread from a holiday that had meaning.

And even though I left the church long ago, I still wish for the feelings I remember as a child during the month of December. I still long for the comfort of those quiet, candle-lit midnight masses, the soul-filling beauty of the hymns. The hushed joy of Christ’s birth.

I wish, like Hanukah, Christmas was once more a whisper.