Monday, January 31, 2011

Sharing my Mommypants Moment Today

I am honored to guest post for Cheryl over at Mommypants today. She does a weekly feature called Mommypants Moments, a place for writers to share times when they had to "put on their mommypants."

She writes, "You know what your Mommypants are. We all have them. We all have those moments when we have to put ‘em on and be the Mommy. Even when we have those days where we wish someone else would."

Please stop by and say hello. She's given me the opportunity to write about an issue very close to my heart. I'm discuss marriage, crisis, bad vision, and redemption.

While you're there, please read more of Cheryl's work. She's an amazing writer and friend and I'm thrilled to have met her this year.

Comments are off.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My first VLOG

I asked. You delivered.

I said that if I received fifty comments* on my very first syndicated post for BlogHer, I would do a vlog showing off my stupid human trick.

This is a big deal because I hate looking at myself and coming across like a dork.

But my narcissism, as always, trumps my insecurity. Go figure.

Please enjoy. Pretend you didn't notice the extraneous bra-tug at the end.

Remember, if you haven't commented yet, please take a moment to stop by and share the love. It's about a dear topic to my heart---keeping our kids safe from sexual predators.

If I get 100 comments, I will dance in a vlog.

It won't be pretty.

Thanks...and Clickity!

*The fifty comments include my responses.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Am Prepared to Do Unspeakable Things if you Visit me on BlogHer

A post I am very proud of entitled "We Don't Keep Secrets in Our Family" will be syndicated on BlogHer today!

I was syndicated on

BlogHer is the premiere blogging community, full of amazing voices and perspectives. I am honored to lend my voice to the chorus.

Please stop by and leave a comment here. It means the world to me. If I get fifty comments, I will do something I swore I would never do: a vlog showing my stupid human trick.

If I get one hundred comments (remember you can click here), I will dance on an additional vlog. My dancing makes Elaine from Seinfeld look like the chick from Black Swan. Yeah, you would laugh. At me. Not with me.

If I get over one hundred comments (right here!), my head will explode from joy, and I will find something else to do for your viewing/mocking pleasure.

I am willing to subject myself to such embarrassment because the post touches on an important issue to my heart--keeping children safe from sexual predators.

If you are new to Away We Go, thank you for visiting. I invite you to look around a bit. Some of my favorite posts include:

A Love Letter to Tucson (Current Events)
Dolphin Day (Parenting)
Like a Songbird (Fiction)
Upgrade (Marriage) 
House Hunters Drives Me to Drink (Humor/Pop Culture. Note: I guest posted for my friend Ash, so you'll be directed to her lovely and amazing site.)

I will update this post with acts of foolishness and daring-do if I reach my commenting goals.

The community of blogging  keeps me coming back to my keyboard. I have no words for what your support means to me. Again, thank you for touching my heart.

Click here if you wish to add a comment.

Red Writing Hood: Fighting Through

 "Take a deep breath, Lyd," Walter said. "It's probably one of those Braxton-Bricks contractions."

She winced, "Hicks, Walter." She twisted her fingers into the armrest and moaned. "They don't feel like this. Trust me."

He squeezed her hand, "Let me get you a glass of water."

The snow hissed outside the kitchen window. Storm of the century, they said. Stay indoors.  Each powdery flake enclosed them with callous indifference. "It's too soon," he whispered. He rubbed his eyes, “We're supposed to have another three weeks.”

"Walter!" Lydia called out, "I need you in here NOW! I think my water broke!" The glass dropped from his trembling hand.

He ran into the living room.  I don't know how to do this, he thought. When the water breaks, there's no turning back.  He rubbed his sweaty palms against his pants. "Do you think I should I get the steam cleaner?"

Lydia blinked, "Are you fucking kidding me? For God's sake Walter---" Another spasm racked her body. She clenched her jaw, her muscles taut with concentration.

The wave of pain receded. She leaned back. Walter sat next to her and waited for direction. "This sucks." She rested on her forearms, "I want an epidural. I want to be in a hospital." She let out a sudden gasp, and reached for his hand.

The contraction crept up from her back towards her stomach. It crested in a solitary moment, and time froze. Walter watched his wife, her eyes closed with concentration, and let her squeeze it all into him.

When he was seven years old, he had broken his arm on the playground merry-go-round. It needed to be set. His mother held his good hand, while the orthopedist placed his fingers into the Chinese handcuffs. Angela leaned in, whispered, "Walter, I'm not going to lie.This is going to hurt. But you won't do it alone. I will hurt with you."  

He gazed at his wife. She rested, curled like a withered leaf. "Hey," he said, clutching her limp palm. "I promise to not do the wrong thing until this baby is born, if you promise to believe in me for a couple of hours." He smiled, added, "Then, we can go back to normal." 

She laughed softly, "All right, Walter." Her eyes pooled, "I need you. Don't leave me, please--" Another contraction hit,  and she turned inside herself.

As the wind howled outside, Lydia and Walter labored up a mountain of pain. Each summit grew more desolate and stark. She didn't speak. All that existed was sensation, and the brief, precious moments of reprieve before the next step forward. 

Walter sat in a chair next to her through each ascent and descent. Every so often, he touched her, but Lydia felt only shadows. There was no before, no after, just that moment. Lydia, Walter, and Zoe. Fighting through.

They didn’t talk. He wished he could climb inside her body for a few hours, and let her rest. There was so little that he could do.

She knew it. He loved her exactly the way he could.. 

This is my take on this week's Red Writing Hood Friday challenge: 

"You are trapped (alone or with others) in a single location during the fury and/or aftermath of a blizzard of historic proportions."

This was a gift, since my story takes place in Colorado.

Critiques are welcome. I am fearful that I started telling instead of showing towards the end. Also, I decided to not describe the actual birth because I wanted the story to be about the relationship, not the actual birth. Did that come through? Could I weave in the flashback more gracefully? I appreciate your advice, as always.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How do you solve a problem like blue glasses?

Almost three years ago, we brought Joel home from the pediatric ophthalmologist with a prescription for glasses. He was seven months old, and in the midst of his mouthing phase, not to mention just on the cusp of kamikaze style-acrobatics. 

We wisely decided on the virtually indescribable Mira-Flex lenses. They do stand up to all of his nonsense, but I'm starting to it time to retire his signature blue frames for something more "grown-up"? 

Internets, I need your opinion. He's had the exact same frames throughout his entire life, and will be turning three this summer. Observe how the glasses have shrunk over time:

 Just purchased.

 A few months in.
 One year.
 Two years
 Yesterday. (He thinks it's hilarious to stick out his tongue.)

Also, you may note that the glasses are actually working. His eyes are less cross-tastic then when he was first diagnosed. He even has bifocals, proving once again that he is an overachiever.

Let me add that the only store that makes these frames within the tri-county area is an hour away. Would it be better to get glasses that break more often with a local store? Or should we keep the existing type of frame for at least one more year?

It's all you, Internet. Have at it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lego Flow

It happened so suddenly that there was no time. No time to prepare our finances or our minds. Life is like that sometimes. When your life is turned upside down, as ours has, all you can do is hold on.

I'm talking, of course, about Legos. Any parent who has lived through this can understand.

I've always kinda prided myself on having kids that aren't that into toys. Owen asked for an electric pencil sharpener for Christmas this year. Last year, he asked for a mailbox. He's always had the requisite toy cars, paints, blocks, and trains. But really, given the choice, he would far prefer to help me scramble some eggs or sort the recycling.

Before the holidays, my mother called, looking for ideas for my grandmother's gift to the boys.  I suggested, "big boy Legos," and immediately forgot the conversation.

Christmas came, and Owen opened his box to discover this:

He then promptly disappeared for the next month. Following the step-by-step directions. Piecing it together. Tearing it apart. Replacing Lego light bulbs. Removing Lego trash. Bliss!

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a famous individual with a crazy-ass name,  introduced the concept of flow.  The idea is that when you're in a flow state, you are "fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."

On my best days writing or teaching, I am in a flow state. Time stops, and the world opens. I am fully energized, humming with possibility. When I taught middle school, and occasionally hit the sweet spot where my students were flowing---it was a genuine rush.

Watching him work over his creations (because we have purchased many more Legos since Christmas), I recognize flow in my son. His forehead is furrowed in concentration, yet a smile still escapes. His self talk, "This piece, THEN that piece. I wonder when it's wheel time? I'm getting so good at this" is a sweet accompaniment to his efforts.

And he's working by himself, people. He doesn't want or NEED me. Often, his brother will sit next to him, watching him construct new worlds. I am invited to "go somewhere else."

So. This toy encourages creativity, problem solving, and spatial reasoning. He plays quietly, and includes his brother in his efforts.

I can get behind this toy. I am officially a fan.
My cousin came into town this weekend for a conference in DC. The 19 degree temperature thwarted our trip to the zoo. Instead, I dragged him to the Lego store. As we watched the store, packed with families that looked just like mine, my cousin spoke ruefully about the incident--the time when his younger brother had mercilessly destroyed his basement Lego airport.

I've heard this story in the past, but now understand the full ramifications of this act. I gasped, "No!" and patted his arm gently. I listened, resisting the urge to take notes, as my cousin explained the pros and cons of various Lego systems. I could have talked about this for hours.

By the way, my cousin is a fracking CIVIL ENGINEER. Another point in the Lego column.

Admittedly, there is a downside to Legos. They start reasonably priced, but that changes when you get into things like this:

One. Hundred. Dollars. Seriously?

Also, the pieces are microscopic. I've yet to step on any in the middle of the night, but I have scoured the underside of my refrigerator in attempts to retrieve them. That's a terrifying place. Nobody deserves that.

The people who design Legos are evil geniuses, because the toys grow with the kids. The gleam in my husband's eye when he works with Owen speaks volumes. I must confess, on more than one occasion, I've "fixed" my son's toys, mumbling to myself at the kitchen table, as he snoozes upstairs.

We won't speak of the furniture I made out of Duplos, and posted on Facebook. And my blog.

I fully expect that Legos will be a part of our world for sometime. And you know what? Worse things can happen.

Have Legos hit your home? When are you in a state of flow?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Red Writing Hood: The Candle of Memory

Walter and Lydia walked down the familiar green hallway, their footsteps heavy on the linoleum. As they entered the ward, the metal doors clinked behind them. 

She reached for Walter's hand, knotting their fingers together. She closed her eyes briefly, nodded and then they entered the room.

Her mother, Anna, rested upright on her hospital bed. "Who are you?" she asked, clutching the sides of her bed.  "I don't have any money, you know. There's nothing to take."

Lydia sat down on a nearby chair, as did Walter. "Hi, Mom," she smiled, "It's your daughter, Lydia. I'm here with my husband, Walter. We're glad to see you."

"You're my daughter?" the creases framing her eyes melted into softness. "Are you sure?"

Walter stroked Lydia's hand, as it trembled like a sparrow in the breeze. The casual violation---the abject cruelty of this disease. It never failed to twist her in half.  She forced a soft laugh.  "Yes, Mom, I'm very sure. How are you feeling today?"

Anna's eyes narrowed. "You can't trust anybody here. These people---especially the dark ones---they take my things. My white thing...that I use to...move my " she closed her eyes, seeking the word that rested in the thin place just beyond her reach.

"Mom," Lydia rubbed her hand gently, "Are you talking about your hairbrush?" She held up the ivory-backed paddle. It had been placed on the nightstand by Marina, the nurse with warm cocoa skin, who called Anna "Birdie," and brought  fresh raspberries from her garden.

Anna's face blossomed. "The thing!" She frowned. "Did you take it? It's mine! Give it to me!"

Don't react. It's not her. Stay calm. Lydia bit her lip, then steadied her voice. "The brush is yours. I won't take it." Lydia rubbed the smooth ivory of the brush, remembering its swift, sweet strokes against her scalp, and the smell of lemon soap as her mother twisted her locks into plaits.

Her voice cracked.  "Your hair is so beautiful. Do you want me to brush it?"

Anna nodded, and closed her eyes. "I had a daughter once," she whispered, her candle of memory flickering briefly. "She was beautiful. Perfect little toes. She laughed at everything."

"That daughter is me. I'm right here, Mom" She brushed the silvery threads like a prayer.

Walter watched as Anna pressed her hand against Lydia's cheek. "If you're my daughter," she said, "Why are you so sad?"

Lydia held the brush in the air, an ellipsis of motion. She gazed at Walter, and lobbed the question his direction. "Why am I so sad?" Her mouth crumbled. She shook her head back and forth, and covered her mouth with a hand.

"I don't know, Mom. I wish I knew." She gulped, and folded into Anna's arms. "I wish I could remember."

Walter watched, as still and impotent as a statue.  His wife shook in her mother's arms, as Anna whispered, "Me too, Girlie. Me too."

This is my submission for this week's Red Writing Hood Friday challenge. The goal this week is to focus on dialogue. What suggestions do you have regarding my dialect, voice, intonation, pacing, etc.?

Also, I'm trying to make Lydia more sympathetic. Any success?

This continues my story about the Merchant Family. To read other entries, click here, here, or here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"We Don't Keep Secrets in Our Family"

I was driving to the post office while listening to Def Leopard, as one does.

In my rear-view mirror, I saw the all-too-familiar blinking of flashing lights, and realized that I was going to get my annual speeding ticket from my friendly deputy.

A year ago, almost to the day, I received a ticket for going 40 in a 30 MPH zone. And yes, it was in the exact same location. I'm nothing if not consistent.

I spent the subsequent Saint Patrick's Day in traffic court. Dressed in my festive green, I waited next to a man wearing dirty overalls and no shirt. I also reconnected with at least four former students. Good times.

I did not want to repeat those good times. I sat and answered the deputy's questions softly, attempting to summon a tone of great remorse and utter shame. I think my hands trembled a bit when I handed him my license and registration, and he went to his car to check my record.

As I whispered expletives to myself, my older son had a series of helpful comments:

Mommy, why are you such a bad driver? 

Mommy, why do we always get pulled over? 

Mommy, why aren't we going to the post office? 

Mommy, are you going to jail?

Because I was presently in the presence of a lawman, Owen got lucky and was allowed to live. The deputy returned with a warning, so I genuflected before his benevolent presence, and crept off to the post office.

I'll have you know, 30 mph feels very slow.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I cleared my throat and said,  "Owen, can you please not tell your father about this?"

His voice sliced the air, sharp like steel. "Mommy. We don't keep secrets in our family."

Right. Ugh. Busted.

I recently read a book called Off Limits by Wurtele and Berkower, which discusses ways to prevent childhood sexual abuse. It's an awesome book, and I highly recommend it.
One of the tactics abusers use is secrecy. Therefore, a phrase that we now use in our home is "We don't keep secrets in our family."

We can have surprises, because a surprise means that we will tell somebody something soon that will make him or her very happy. For example, presents are surprises. Folding Daddy's clothing is a surprise. But we don't keep secrets.

This phrase has worked beautifully, and it has stuck. While Owen was preparing for his Christmas pageant, his teacher often told the kids that there were secrets---harmless things, like the songs for the little play, or the ornaments they made. Each time, Owen's voice boomed from his carpet square, "We don't keep secrets in our family."

He badgered his teacher so much that she eventually changed her language to the proper word---surprise.

I didn't have to say a word, because my son was empowered with words of his own.

Because warnings from the deputy don't really qualify as "surprises," I took my medicine and told my husband. He was concerned, mildly annoyed, and it was over. 

Not keeping secrets means that there is another layer of honesty and mutual dependence in our family. Yes, sometimes it's a pain. Sometimes it's harder. But I promise you---we would have it no other way.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Closer to Away

Thanks, all for the spot-on feedback last week. That's the stuff I need, so please, continue to bring it.

This week's Red Writing Hood prompt is a doozy:

For this week's prompt, grab something out of your pantry and write a short piece - using all the words in the ingredients. It can be fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose.

I decided that Fridays will be dedicated to my emerging story about Walter and his family. You can read previous stories here and here.

For feedback this week, could you look closely at my sentence variety and specifically the flow and meter of my prose? Thanks in advance.

Closer to Away

Lydia gave her running shoes a final, satisfying tug and stepped out her door. The first moment outside, as always stung, like an icy whip. But that was the point. Isn't running about feeling something?

Running toward County Line road, she inwardly rolled her eyes. County Line Road. Could the cowpokes have less imagination? She had told Walter that if he insisted on taking that job at CU, they would live in Boulder proper. Yes, people build multi-million dollar nursing homes for dogs there, and never fail to find yet more heinous ways to adorn their feet, but at least the schools are decent.

Not like here. Dreary Erie. "We can get so much more house for so much less money," Walter had explained, his glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. "And we don't have to live in the PRB. The People's Republic of Boulder." He laughed, as if he had come up with this line himself, instead of reading it on one of his conservative Internet forums.

God, she hated him sometimes.

She glanced at her watch, noted her solid 8:00 minute pace. Good. Today was an easy day---a six miler, no repeats or hills. The Ft.Collins marathon was in May, and if she didn't qualify for Boston this time, then she had officially Not Worked Hard Enough.

Shuddering at the thought, she pumped her arms harder, her shoes leaving perfect tread marks in the newly-fallen snow. Her pregnant belly bounced slightly, papoosed in the belly band specifically purchased to keep Baby Girl safe. She liked the idea of her---Zoe, I guess they were calling her--resting in her womb, each pounding step lulling her into a deep, meditative sleep.

Lydia hated to run with other people--always yammering on about split times and the best post-race recovery foods. But Zoe would be a different story. She already knew to respect her mother's need for quiet and privacy.

Warmth flooded through her body as she began her last mile. As always, she was right. She had worn shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and gloves, and was now perfectly comfortable.She ticked off her day---seven hours in the ER, followed by interviews for nannies. Wincing, she remembered the final task of the day---drinks with the head of  the Poly Sci department.

Maybe she would beg off. For the baby, of course.

Rounding the corner, she was home. Her neighborhood builders, attempting to emulate the real Victorians in downtown Boulder, had painted each house in different garish colors. She and Walter lived in the most sensible of the lot---a sky blue two-story, with dark blue trim and cream embellishments. She yearned to paint it a gentle beige, just to fuck with the HOA.

As she stretched out her calf, she peeked inside the window. Walter stood in the kitchen, still wearing his ratty blue bathrobe. Squinting at a Gatorade bottle, he moved his lips softly as he read.

She shifted her weight to the other leg. Already, she could hear it. "Honey, I was reading the ingredients on this. Water, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, glycerol ester of rosin, and yellow 5. Do you think you should be drinking this? Is it good for the baby?"

Muscles still hot and ready, she turned around, and ran away from her house, each step another moment closer to away.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

By the Numbers

Today is a glorious day. 1-11-11. The symmetry makes me squeal with delight. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post this oldie from the Nobody-Read-The-Blog-Archives. Please enjoy. 


Numbers are not my thing. Every time I bake, I have to ask Paul if 1/3 plus 1/3 equals 2/3.

He'll shake his head and say, "Were you adding the denominators again?"

I'll pretend to be very interested in the counter top, and squeak out an embarrassed, "Uh-huh." In my head, it makes sense every time. 1/3 + 1/3 equals 2/6, which rounds down to 1/2!

This is my secret shame, so secret that I am posting it on the Internet for mocking purposes.

While my practical applications of numbers are...lacking, I enjoy numbers as a concept. Like my grandmother, I get very excited when the digital clock reads certain things, such as 3:33. Ah, the symmetry! I also enjoy 1:23, because it is chronological. Ditto 4:56.

I find Paul's birthday 1-7-74 troubling because that 4 ruins the whole thing, being the only even number in a sea of odds. Mine--3-5-75--is much better. My brother's is also okay: 10-20-76, for everything in his birth date is divisible by two.

Both of my sons have messes of birth dates: 2-21-06 for Owen and 7-29-08 for Joel.

The only redeemable aspect of Owen's birthday (besides the fact that it is his birthday and I love him, blah blah blah...) is that 21 has always been a very good number for me. Just typing it is very satisfying.

Joel's birthday was a missed opportunity. I was so tired of being pregnant that I was induced. Meaning: if I had allowed nature to take its course, I could have had a cooler date for my second born.

He was supposed to be born in early August, which was very exciting, because it was possible that his birthday would have been 8-8-08. The very idea! Think of all the times I could have written that blissful little number on medical forms! 

Alas, my aching back and surly temperament were stronger than my nerdy inclinations, and I jumped at the induction date. My only consolation is that 29 is a prime number.

However, I don't understand the whole concept of prime numbers, so this is an empty victory.

One more number story: we just bought new telephones, because our old phones were tools of the devil--cutting out, beeping loudly, going on mute for no logical reason. The other day, I was dialing a number to check my voice mail. Suddenly, the phone decided to beep loudly while the number 6 filled the entire screen. As in 666666666666666666666666. As in MARK OF THE BEAST. As in the film Maximum Overdrive, where all the household appliances become evil, slicing and dicing their hapless owners.

It didn't matter what I did. All I could do was stare at my demonic telephone, waiting for the sky to turn black and for the Four Horsemen to come tearing from the sky. It was quite chilling.

But then, I unplugged the phone and replugged it, thus performing a do-it-yourself exorcism. All was fine.

But, in the short moment, when my blood turned to ice water, and I was pondering my haunted phone, I couldn't help but note that 666 is divisible by both 2 and 3, and it is very pleasing, indeed.

So tell any of you share my bizarre affinity for numbers?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Love Letter to Tucson

I drove up Skyline Drive each morning, straight into the mouth of the foothills. The sky was washed purple-pink, like bold swipes of watercolor. These mountains listened to me. 
I was a young teacher, full of fears. The mountains heard it all---the student who refused to write, the girl who lost her father,  and the boy who hid under his desk when it all became too much.  The mountains let me talk. I nestled in her dusty-beautiful arms. She held me close, and then set me free to do my work.

September 11, 2001. On the East Coast, children were already in school---teachers willed back tears and churning panic, as parents raced home to their children. But in Tucson, we woke up to the aftermath---there was nothing to do but drive to work.

The mountains heard me cry softly, as I shifted gears and stopped at lights. The sky was obscenely blue, inappropriate, like a peacock at a funeral. The cacti forest, each saguaro in a perpetual sun salutation, witnessed our coming and going with ancient wisdom.

As I watched the sun tip out behind the mountains, flooding the valley with light,  I said to myself, "We are so safe here."

A girl was born that beautiful Tucson morning. Lots of new lives were born under that desert sun, in a valley which smells of creosote and fresh starts.

I lived there, in a flat-roofed bungalow with wood paneling and a swamp cooler. I rode my bike to the University, where I learned that I could write. I became a runner in that valley, pounding out miles along the empty banks of the Rillito.

I married my love there, and danced with him under twinkly lights and a scarlet explosion of bougainvillea.

And through it all, the mountains bore witness. As they will, long after the camera crews pack up, and those dear families attempt to pick up the pieces.

Bear down, Arizona. Those mountains, and the world, hold you in their arms.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Writing Hood: A Fresh Face

For my New Year's resolution, I have been waking up early to write each morning. It's been such a gift. My partners in crime, Ashlei from Shades of Green and Blue and Erin from The Mother Load have been checking in with me as we embark on this challenge together.

Simply put, 2011 is the year I take my writing to the next level. The Red Writing Hood Friday Challenge is the first step in this process.

I ask you to please share your thoughtful critique so I can grow as a writer. For this piece, for example, help me see ways that I can enhance my character's "nonverbals" and body language. I feel that body language adds much to the character, but I fear that I often fall back on the same old descriptors.

The challenge this week is "to write a short piece - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatevs - in which each sentence starts with a the next letter of the alphabet. Starting with "A." So, yes, your finished product will consist of 26 sentences." (I cheated on the sentence part. A LOT. Um, sorry.)

(PS--This is revisiting Walter from my "Like a Songbird" post. You can catch up here.

A Fresh Face

"Angela," she said, her hand on her swelling belly.
"Blech," he grimaced. "My mother's name?"
"Could you at least consider it?" She shook her head back and forth. "I mean, it's a lovely name."
"Don't think I can," he replied. He cleared his throat. " I mean, why on earth did you think I would give our daughter her name?"
"Exactly! That's my point!" she said. She snapped her hands together for emphasis. "The name does not belong to her! There are good Angelas and bad ones."
"For Christ's sake, then," he said, cracking a smile, "Why don't we name her Cruella or Adolpha?"
"Great idea!" she smiled back. "I'm sure she'll be invited to all the parties that way."
"Help me understand," he said, setting his glasses on the coffee table. "Why are you stirring the pot?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," she replied. She leaned back into her chair. "I just mentioned a name I liked,"
"Just mentioned a name I liked," he laughed softly. "That's pretty passive-aggressive"
"Knowing that you have issues with women, and knowing that you will have a daughter in seven weeks, I think I've been very patient with you." She shifted in her armchair, and placed a hand protectively on her belly.
"Lydia," he said, "I had a few bad girlfriends, and you know the issues with my mother. But I love women."
"Maybe you need to exorcise a few demons," she said. "That's all I'm saying."
"No!" he said. He stood up and paced back and forth. "That's not what you're saying at all."
"Oh, then, Mr. Insightful, what am I saying?" Her eyes were flinty and unrelenting.
"Please just drop it." he twisted his wedding band and studied the hardwood.
"Quit doing that!" she said, sighing deeply. "God! You're avoiding the issue again."
"Really?" he said, meeting her eyes, "I don't want to name our baby after my terrible mother. I really need to argue about this?"
"Some people would respect that you're making an effort to mend some fences, Walter." She blinked, and reached for his hand.
"The 'people' you are mentioning?" he said, untangling himself from her grasp, "Who would they be?"
"Underwood," she answered. "The man who could help us--her-- have an easier life. At least we'll start with him."
"Very nice to consider the holder of Mother's estate. The keeper of the cash." He chuckled slowly, then  stared at the floor once again. He breathed in and out, as he had been taught. 
"What is wrong with you?" she exploded. She exhaled loudly, then hissed, "Do you suggest we allow our daughter to live in rags among the great unwashed because you can't suck it up and get what you're entitled to?" 
"Xenophobic much? The great unwashed, really? Between the two of us, we pull in a decent sum. She will be just fine." He placed his hand on her pregnant belly, felt his daughter's fluttery kick.
"You know that she deserves the world," she said. She paused, as if considering her options, then placed her hand on top of his. "Why make it harder?"
"Zoe," he replied, as if speaking to himself.  "Zoe's a nice name. It means, 'life.' It means the future. It means a fresh face and no strings attached. Let's start there." They sat together in silence---Walter, Lydia, and the life they created.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Battle of the Beard

Over the holiday break, my dear husband grew himself a beard.

Lord help me.

As a former military man, Paul has always flirted with the idea of facial hair. He rarely packs a razor when we vacation and frequently attends weekend social functions with some scruff. On one memorable Halloween, he choose to dress as a pirate, simply for an excuse to grow a beard.

So yes, alas, we have been down this road many, many times.

Unlike my brother, who grows patchwork pockets of hair, all swimming in their own, non-connected universes, Paul actually grows a very nice beard. He keeps it neat. And it has that distinguished gray in it that men can get away with. You know, since the universe is completely unfair.

When it became evident that Paul was going to keep the thing, or was at least considering the idea, I devised my plan of attack.

Step the First: "It's itchy!"  Counterattack: "It'll grow in softer." 

Step the Second: "You know there's gray hair in there."  Counterattack: "You mean like Sean Connery?" 

Step the Third aka The Big Gun: "You know, it's like French kissing my dad." Counterattack: "Are you saying you French kiss your dad?"

Around the fourth day, something shifted in me. It's the same instinct that leads me to paint my fingernails bright blue and consider dying my hair Sharon Osborne pink---I'm going through the adolescence that I skipped during my actual adolescence. Back then, I was too busy reading Atlas Shrugged and being invisible.

So, what shifted? I suppose the idea that Paul could look kinda scruffy, and dare I say and sexy. I thought that he would grow into something like this...

Or the always classic....

This is for Ms. Moon...
And for all the Teeny-Boppers...

And for anybody with a pulse...

Rarely to my fantasies match my reality. But on the other hand, my reality is awfully nice and rarely engages in high colonics or calls people "Bro." So, unless he morphs into this...

I'll keep him, and keep my mouth shut. 

Anybody fought the battle of the beard out there?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Smog

Right before Christmas, we got some really challenging news. Life-altering news. Like smog, it darkened the skies, made our eyes sting and caused our chests to periodically ache. This smog made it really hard to see the lights and the tinsel. It made us, for the first time, "get through" Christmas.

This news has nothing to do with our children, our marriage, or our health. Thank God for that.

However, this news cuts deep and hurts like hell. I will not be writing about the details of it here, because the person involved values his/her privacy almost above all else. This will probably be the most I will ever share.

But understand---it's always there, like a balloon filled with lead pellets, sitting right on my chest. This new reality has altered me, and made me rawer and kinder. A partial list of things that made me cry over the last week include:

1. Joel was eating vanilla ice cream. He turned to his father and cooed, "Daddy, I'm so, so happy!!" OH ,if it could always be that easy.

2. Any commercial made by Folger's ever.

3. Owen and Joel stood on either side of my fifteen-month old niece. The patted her dandelion-fluff hair, and cooed, "Love you, love you." She darted her eyes back and forth and laughed out loud. The tenderness of this nearly tore me in half.

The smog caused the uglification of my landscape, but it also illuminated the things in my life that contribute to the pollution.  I have been carrying around pettiness and jealousies in a battered old backpack for years. Each hurt feeling and inability to forgive pinched my shoulders and rubbed my back raw.

When I heard the news, I finally, finally put the fucking backpack down. I'm not suggesting that this terrible thing happened so I could get over myself. But I'll take it.

People, there's just no time for that.

I have discovered, already, that free of my backpack, I can use my strength instead to feed, putter, listen, and prepare. I can hold my babies as long as they let me, and recognize that there is nothing mundane about a child in your arms.

I now recognize that while there are days that I want to retort, "Fuck you," when the perfectly nice waitress at Olive Garden wishes us a Happy New Year, I still believe. I still hope. I still am convinced that there is nothing on Earth that will keep me from basking in God's love.

Do I want things to go back to how they were? Yes. Desperately. I don't like the fog. It hurts my eyes, my lungs, and my very spirit.

But the clarity I've gained---it is perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all.

So tell me your stories, friends. Are you in the smog? Were you in the smog? What helped you see the light?