Tuesday, December 27, 2016


"Mom, we should host our own podcast," little kid said. "You be the looks, I'll be everything else -- the brains, talent, humor, you know, all of it. We'll be perfect."

"Yes, but...you don't even need looks for a podcast."

"Yeah. That's why I think this could work."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Breakdown

"First day of Christmas break and I'm already out of poop jokes," little kid said as he watched me clean the litter box.

"That's tragic. I'm so sad for you. It's like we'll have to live like civilized human beings for at least the day," I replied.

"Yeah." He stood there for a moment, contemplatively. "Wait, wait -- the scat that smiles back."

He smiled triumphantly and I laughed, reluctantly.


"Yeah," I conceded.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

On Being Grown Up

"Mom, how do you be a grown-up?" my 10-year-old asked from the backseat.

"I honestly don't know yet."

"Like, how could I handle a kid or all the grown-up stuff, or especially all of it at once?"

"You just do. You grow into it."

"Does it get easier?"

"Honestly? It comes and goes. Sometimes it's really hard and sometimes it's less hard."

"But it's always hard?"

"I don't know, I might just not be good at it. It's hard for different reasons. I'd refer you to a real grown-up but I don't even know if I know any. We might all be faking it. You'll do great but you'll never think so, that's pretty much being a grown-up. I think."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stay Inside

"Hey, you know how I take you guys to see anyone who may be an important part of history, whether we agree with their politics or not?"

They both nodded from the backseat.

"Yeah. It's something I think is really important, and part of you forming your own worldview. That being said, I'll never take you near Donald Trump. We can respect the office of the presidency, and you are free to have your own opinion of him, but I can't and won't respect him as a human being or a politician and therefore can't expose you to him more than I have to, future historical figure or not. Like, if he was in our driveway giving a speech, I'd make you stay inside."

"Uh, yeah, no worries there, mom. I wouldn't want to go, and besides, it's not even appropriate -- it would be like if you took us to see a porn star give a speech."

Normally I'd ask what he knows about porn stars and how, but I was busy mourning the fact that his statement was true and that our future president isn't appropriate for my children to admire.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Cat House

"Hey, I have these two boxes in the garage and I was thinking we could make them into little houses for the kitties for Christmas," I told Big Kid at the dinner table last night. "I need your help though because I want them to look really nice. So I was thinking we'd measure the sides and then decide what kind of little houses they'd be, like Calliope's could be a candy shop and Alexander Hamilton's could be, I don't know, whatever, but then I need your help designing a little store front and the building sides in Photoshop. Then we can get it printed at Kinko's and put it on the boxes. I could probably print it myself but -- " It was then that I realized that everyone at the table was completely silent and staring at me. "What?"

Big Kid shook his head. "There is literally not a thought in your head that doesn't revolve around cats."


"Yes, he's right," Mr. Ashley added.

"Did you just hear yourself, mom? That whole thing? Like, really think about the things you say and tell me they aren't all cat-related."

"But it's the kittens' first Christmas, I was just thinking..."

"He's right," little kid confirmed. Everyone else in the house is kind of boring, so when he takes their side I start to wonder.

"I just thought it would be fun."

"Right. That's the thing, mom. Turning cardboard boxes into cat houses is your idea of fun. That's kind of the whole problem."

"Seriously, Ashley, the cat situation is out of control."

"It's not."

"The sight of them snuggling the other day made you cry. The whole thing is weird."

"I just wish there was a cat big enough to snuggle me like that."

"See? That. It always comes back to cats."

"Okay, then. I'll make the cat houses by myself and I won't put your names on the gift tag."

And then I dropped it but I was secretly mad. The cats don't pull this kind of shit with me. They love my love of cats. Mostly.

Monday, December 5, 2016


So, lately I'm a little scared of people because people can be scary.

I'm an over thinker, which makes for some social anxiety, and I live in an area that has a large number of people who only live here for half the year, and these people often have no chill. They're very comfortable asserting themselves, where I prefer to smile and nod and go about my day, avoiding direct interaction with strangers in public.

Every day I sit at the same residential street corner in my car waiting for little kid's bus, and I have to pull slightly into the crosswalk in order to see it coming.

I'm neurotic, so I feel tremendous guilt about that and try to be conscientious about reversing a little bit in the rare event that anyone tries to cross. The other day I was in a terrible mood though, and the bus was coming soon. I saw an older lady approaching with her dog and mine started barking at hers, so it was full chaos mode. She stopped and looked at my car, and I wondered how long it would take for the neighborhood watch to arrive and interrogate me.

I decided I wasn't reversing that foot from the crosswalk, she wouldn't even have to walk around me with the path she was on. She probably already hated me anyway and both stupid dogs were barking like crazy.

Then she walked across...and around to my driver's side. Fuck. Should've backed up.

She waited patiently as I rolled my window down, ready to apologize and explain the bus stop situation when she said, "I just wanted to tell you that you're a good mama. I see you here everyday, just sitting and waiting and you're a good woman and mother."

I was so stunned by her kindness that I wasn't sure how to reply, a rare event for me. I stuttered something out about how nice it was of her to stop to say so -- that I spend a lot of my time there waiting and it feels wasted and that she had just made my day.

The drudgery of motherhood feels so purposeless that it's easy to forget that it's important.

That lady was a good reminder to be the stranger that's willing to take a chance on others, and although she'll most likely forget it as a small kindness, I will remember it forever and as more than that.

(And I have to stop being a scary stranger too.)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mini Mentor

little kid still snuggles me in bed every morning before school. I love it.

"Any advice for my job interview today?" I asked him yesterday.

"Hmm," he said thoughtfully. "Walk really tall, like, stand up straight. And -- " he paused for a minute, thinking some more, "You're gonna say a lot of stuff and you might be nervous so it might not always be good stuff. But just say it the way you always would. You should be yourself because people like you and if they don't, you shouldn't surprise them later. Would you even want to work there if they didn't like you? So just be you." He quickly added, "But don't cuss. Or laugh too loud. I mean, laugh, but not that hyena laugh you do when we Snapchat. Be you but more normal."

So, my guru is in 5th grade. I think the advice of not surprising someone with who you are is profound and more of us should do that.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Kind of Fun

"Remember when you made me go on the dinosaur roller coaster at Legoland? I didn't like it." little kid reminded me, because I must have looked at peace with myself as a parent and person.

"No. I don't remember a dinosaur roller coaster." I know I made him go on at least one ride he didn't like, but couldn't recall the details. These are not real roller coasters, for anyone feeling sympathy that I encouraged him to try something new.

"It was maybe wood or something?"

"Hm. No."

"There was like a lost dinosaur theme or something? With crates around? It wasn't a big coaster. Near the front of the park?"

"No. I don't know."

"You found a spelling mistake on one of the signs in line and you were so happy. You couldn't wait to email them about it."

"Ah!! Yes! They had 'to' instead of 'too.' Man, I have a picture of it somewhere. I never did email them. That was fun."

"No...it wasn't. That was the whole point of me bringing it up."

Sense of Sweetness

little kid, now 10, tripped and fell in the kitchen, so I hugged him and rubbed his back for a moment.

"I'm so sorry, babe," I murmured. "It sounded like it hurt." After a few long seconds of a tight hug, I added,"Hey, are you using shampoo?" 

"Oh come on, mom." 

"You're not. Your hair smells yuck."

"That's rude. That's just mean to bring it up right now." 

"I'm just saying. Killing two birds and all that, like your hair would. You have to use shampoo every day." 

"Don't hug me then."

"Look, my greatest joy as a mother -- out of all of the things over all of the years -- is the pleasure of secretly sniffing your hair when we hug. Please don't steal that sweetness from me. I only have a few years left. Please, if not for the sake of your hygiene, please use the shampoo so that I can have that." 

I thought I sensed a softness in him then. He's usually as weak as I am about the thought of him growing up and leaving me. 

"So this is all about you then? I fell down. Does everything have to be about you?" 

(I was wrong about the softness.) 

"Yes. Everything is about me. Your leg is fine, your hair is not. Please use the shampoo."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Right Friends

On the drive to school the other day, my 10-year-old randomly said, "Mom, you and your friends are really cool."

"Me and my friends? Uh, thanks. We don't get called that a lot, I don't think."

"No. Really. You have, like, really good friends. Like you'll get dressed up all fancy for each other or just text each other during lunch to go sit somewhere wearing yoga pants and with your hair all...not fancy." We sit at a dive bar, drink Bloody Marys like they're going out of style, and play Prince on the jukebox from our iPhones for hours on those afternoons, but he doesn't know that. "And you're all like, 'Take nine kids out in public? Sure!' and no one even yells that much. Like how you'll all boss each other's kids but in a nice mom way. And I like how you're all mad about the election but you are looking for people to be nice to, like that's a funny and cool way to be mad. And how you say you don't like to talk on the phone but when you do, it's for like an hour. And you're all all loud and stuff, but in a fun way, not an annoying way. Most of the time. No offense, sometimes you guys are annoying but just because you're having maybe too much fun."

This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me or my friends. And it's spot on, down to being annoying. We totally are.

"Wow. Yeah. We think we're super cool, so thanks for noticing. Really. I am lucky in the friend department and what you just said made me feel really good."

"But how did you make those kinds of friends? I want friends like that when I have kids but I think it would be good to start now."

"It's super tricky. And also not. Sometimes you meet people and you know they're meant to be your friend, and you have to stay in touch or tell them that you're friends now and you suck at staying in touch and hope they're cool with that. But mostly make sure the people you really like know that you really like them, because everyone likes to be liked. I could see you and your best friend coaching your kids' football teams some day, I think he's one of your soulmate friends."

"I don't know," he said pensively. "I don't think we'd have our kids play football. Maybe something safer like soccer."

"Yeah. That's how you know. That you already know that about each other."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Last night Mr. Ashley asked if I had heard about the earthquake in Japan and the potential for a tsunami.

I shushed him and looked around for little ears.

"Please. Do not mention that around little kid. Let's just not bring it up again."

He looked surprised and a little sad. "Wow. Yeah, with all of his stomach aches and stuff, I wonder if he's having some anxiety from the news? That's something --"

"No," I interrupted. "He's obsessed with radioactive fallout from tsunamis. For weeks I've had to answer questions I don't understand and learn all kinds of stuff about the last time it happened in Japan. It's just now stopping. Please -- for the love of God -- please don't get it started again."

He looked as perplexed as I felt during week one of Nuclear Tsunami News time in the car. "Really? But...why?"

"I don't know, but I can't do it again right now. So don't. No matter what happens in Japan."

"That's kind of interesting. I wonder -- "


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Last Dinosaur Lawyer

"It's really too bad that there can't just be one dinosaur that still exists," little kid said on the way home from school today.

No one replied since no response seemed required.

"Not like a carnivore, obviously, having one random T-rex around would be a mess," he continued. "We'd have to fence it in or something, so it wouldn't just be tearing up cities and eating people, I guess."

"A Brontosaurus would be cool," the 13-year-old finally added.

"Those were always my favorite!" I said. "They don't call them that anymore."

"They call them --" I don't know, I think he said Patasaurus but I won't call it like that just like Pluto is still a planet.

"That's dumb, they're dumb for changing it. I'm calling them Brontosauruses."

"Just imagine, one Brontosaurus working as a lawyer in New York City somewhere," little kid continued.

"Why on earth would the sole surviving dinosaur be a lawyer, little kid?" His brother asked.

"Uh, why wouldn't he be?"

"For about a billion reasons, including a brain the size of an acorn, probably."

"Bro -- that's species-ist. Hashtag Brontosaurus Lives Matter. That Brontosaurus could have worked his entire life to achieve its dream of becoming a lawyer in New York City. Seriously...who do you think you are?"

"Mom, tell him the Brontosaurus could not be a lawyer."

"She's not telling me anything. She doesn't even know this dinosaur. You people disgust me. Dinosaurs have dreams too."


"What do you want me to do? The whole scenario is pretty improbable, I just don't see the need to get involved."

"You both disgust me, way to speak up for the common Brontosaurus, mom."

And then I think they kept fighting but I stopped listening for obvious reasons.

(Because I was imagining this dinosaur lawyer thing, and liking it.)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Negative One

My 5th grader came to me with a shockingly bad grade on a test about commas. I was sympathetic but still trying to process the information when he started talking about a math test.

"I got a negative two." 

"Wait. What?" 

"One of the questions was a," stopped listening momentarily here, "so really it was a negative one." 

I was quiet for a minute while I tried to figure that out. "Are you saying you got less than none right? One or two less than none? Is that even possible?" 

"Mom, it means I got one wrong," he said, exasperated. "Minus one. Maybe you shouldn't be worrying about my math tests." 

Maybe not, but I'm concerned for his grammar and sentence structure though. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nudge People Forward

"Hey, remember that black family that kind of took you guys in at the Clinton rally?"


"So, they didn't know you at all. They waited all day, fairly, for their spot in line so they could be up front. We could have waited all day if we wanted to be up front, but they saw you guys behind them and helped you move forward. Like, they were willing to sacrifice some of their space to nudge you closer to a historical moment and were also ready to help keep you safe when things got rowdy and they had zero obligation to do so."

"Yeah, they were nice."

"We have to be like them. With everyone, but right now especially with people who are feeling like our country doesn't want them. And you have to be on the look out for people who need a nudge forward or the protection of the place you have in society. Sometimes out of politeness, or to avoid awkwardness, we don't say something -- not just at big moments where someone is being bullied but even if a friend is saying something really unkind privately -- and I'm asking you to say something. A good example is that taped conversation of Trump and that other guy about women. That other guy could've shut it down and I hope you do. Quickly. Every time. Even if you have to make a social sacrifice or may come off as rude. Even if you might get in trouble. Even if the other guy is cool. Remember how that family helped you in spite of our differences and do it everywhere, but especially for people who may already be at a disadvantage."

"Is this about racism? No offense, but that's just not really a thing at my school. I think it's an adult thing, mostly. We all play with everyone, unless they're a jerk, and even then we'll try again when they aren't a jerk."

"Well, keep playing with everyone, even the jerks. I know that's the hard part, but the jerks grow up to feel like the only thing they can be is a jerk since that becomes their thing. And then they end up in a position of power over the same people they were jerks to before. Love the jerks in a way that shows you know they can do better and let them try again."

"Yeah. We do that," he said, as if it was the craziest thing in the world to think they wouldn't.

Have we considered electing a 5th grader? While we're in "Let's see what happens" mode, I think it's worth considering. Also, they've studied government fairly recently and have student council experience, which is a plus.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Still Stronger Together

Something amazing happened today.

After an angsty morning, a few Facebook unfriendings, and rapid-fire texts beginning at 5:15am since everyone knew I was either still up or up again on a day like this, there was a subtle shift.

The texts and messages went from sad and defeated to determined -- I'm talking several different friend groups across several communication methods, all different ages and levels of community involvement and political interest.

But within hours my friends were no longer mourning their loss, they were individually starting to plan their comeback, all around the same time and all with the same general ideas which included:

1. Helping those who will be hurt most. Little things that will lead to big things that our kids will remember as a reaction to perceived injustice. Like, no more engraved bangle bracelets or chalked wall hangings about being the change -- actually being the change.

2. Raising kids who love widely and broadly. Prompting them to be louder and stronger and bolder and more than we have been -- respectful revolutionaries. Most of my friends (including the ones that live in other countries) shared anecdotes about their children's reaction to America's election and the interest and compassion there is where it's at. They can do it.

3. Finding strong candidates we believe in and supporting them and the democratic process in a real and active way, in a feet-on-the-ground kind of way, starting ASAP. And I really and truly hope both sides will work harder to do better there.

All of these conversations went from "me too" to the stirrings of specific plans and suggestions of who else to talk to and all of this had happened by 1pm.

This isn't a "Well, next time we'll kick your ass" thing either. Everyone was mad and yet their first (well, second) reaction was to love harder and louder, and to close up the cracks we're worried will open and swallow the real people at stake.

Again, it feels good to know that the people in my life are mostly good, and willing to find a way to do what we believe is right in a way that doesn't directly hurt or threaten (anything more than the ideas of) those who disagree.

And this time I think we will.

Face Plant

Okay, everyone, remember that thing I said about how falling on our face might not be that bad? (It was yesterday, scroll down.) That it may, in fact, be preparing us for something greater?

Let's remember that this morning after the election.

In four years, we're going to have the straightest, steadiest, most rockin' handstand ever -- no wall, no hesitation, no fear, no help. Just America: good and brave and bold and strong. Turned upside down on purpose.

Our face is going to be bruised and bloody as fuck, but that's okay. We've done that before.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Yoga of the Mind

I've been doing yoga for 3 or 4 years now, reluctantly and sporadically, like I do most things that are good for me.

Yoga is not about looking badass in Lululemon or being flexible; it's about patience and balance, about dropping your ego, experimenting, accepting, and reflecting on what you learned along the way without judgment.

That being said, my inability to do a handstand seriously pisses me off.

I guess that's the work -- recognizing that not getting what I want when I expect to have it can be the catalyst to self-induced misery, and then exploring new avenues of approaching that. That's what my yoga teacher would say, while I roll my eyes and count how many minutes until savasana.

Yesterday I was in an advanced class because the timing worked and I love the teacher (not because I'm in any way advanced after almost a year of no yoga) and they were working on handstands.

Of course they were. The universe is all up in my face like that lately.

I stayed only because leaving would be too obvious and because the chaos of handstands afforded me some privacy to roll around, rest, or otherwise do what I wanted while still looking like a participant. I started with everyone else though, kicking up against the wall and using it to support myself -- something that was too scary when I first started but was fun now.

And at one point as I was going upside down, confident that my heels would brush the wall behind me before I could fall, I wondered what would happen if I didn't reach for the wall -- if I just did a handstand.

The thought was absurd. If I couldn't do a handstand with years of practice, 200 hours of yoga teacher training, and a fervent desire to do one, why would I be able to do it after a year of inactivity while I played around for a half-assed minute before resting?

I moved away from the wall a little though, and I kicked up again, shoulders stacked above wrists, hips stacked above shoulders. If I looked a little bit forward right now, I would either do a handstand without touching the wall or fall flat on my face, I thought. That's usually the warning bell to stop but then I found myself thinking that I have fallen on my face so many times before, but I have never done a handstand.

It sounds small, shifting your gaze while upside down, the tiniest tilt of the skull and eyeballs, but it's always the moment that reminds gravity that I'm up to no good.

I did it though, and enjoyed several steady seconds of a straight, wall-free handstand before coming down on purpose. I was all powerful in that moment.

(I know non-yoga people and/or people who can do handstands won't get it, but trust me, this is life accomplishment stuff. I defied gravity and my self-doubt. This is what courage looks like in my mundane world.)

So it turns out that the key to handstand was to ignore my fear. The biological indicators that something could hurt had to be shut down by the psychological ones that promised the potential for awesome was greater.

Seriously, I'm a pro at falling on my face at this stage in life. I should own that as proudly as the handstand. I could teach classes. Or write a long-running blog about it.

All of my failed attempts were just preparing me for greater things. Once I accepted the opportunity for pain and embarrassment, other avenues of accomplishment opened up.

I am not 100% sure that this metaphor is going to work out in real life as well as the yoga studio, but I really hope so. Either way, I'll be doing more handstands or falling on my face with even more grace and enthusiasm and both options are an improvement.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Trick or Treat

So, I spent the morning running around getting last minute finishing touches for our Halloween costumes, including everything I need to make the dog's. I also bought some special stuff for our Halloween dinner, excited to set the table with our sugar skull china and ouija board platter.

I got home and put it all away and received a text from the 13-year-old.

"Mom, can I go trick or treating with Nate? In his neighborhood? At 6?"

I sat and stared at it for a few seconds, happy for him. My favorite Halloween memories happened around his age.

"Yeah! Sounds fun! Definitely yes."


And then I called Mr. Ashley.

"Well, yeah, this is what we want for him. He's 13, Ashley!"

"I know! I want that too! But he's our Willy Wonka, and the dog is the Oompa Loompa, and I bought his favorite drink for the dinner and was gonna set the table with the Halloween china and he has to be there at 6 and," I stopped and took a deep breath as I stifled sob, "it's one of the last times!"

Ugh. It's not the Willy Wonka-less Chocolate Factory family costumes or the special dinner or his lone Oompa Loompa of a brother (who has the dog, I guess).

It's that it's all kind of winding down -- his childhood, or at least the part where we play the starring roles -- and how did that happen?

The other day I casually reminded my childhood best friend that they'd be in middle and high school next year and she replied, "He'll be a freshman?!" and I briefly thought, no, that's impossible, before realizing that yeah...that's exactly what that means. I just hadn't considered him in that context. Ever.

Not even five full years until he's a legal adult. I remember five years ago like it was yesterday.

(I'll be lobbying to change that, by the way, you're not an adult until you're 25.)

As a mom it might be one of my scariest Halloweens ever -- standing at this parenting precipice and seeing what comes next more clearly than I have before. Ugh.

And part of what comes next is no more family costumes. Dammit.

Life makes no sense without a Willy Wonka.

The idea is going to take some getting used to.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sweat Salutations

I was out with yoga friends a few weeks ago and confessed that I haven't done yoga in a year. The ones who were surprised looked at me like I had just admitted that I stopped brushing my teeth.

When asked why, I rattled off a list of excuses, some more valid than others, as a friend gave me the patient, almost bored, kind of skeptical of my bullshit look that yoga people give and immediately offered to eliminate every obstacle that he personally could, which left me with not enough excuses to continue not doing yoga. 

I returned yesterday, and the whole thing was so lovely and comfortable. From the building to the people to the smell of my mat to the unthinking fluidity of the movements. I felt strong and graceful and peaceful and challenged (but mostly only looked challenged, probably). 

I was able to breathe more deeply than I have in months, lying there in my puddle of sweat at the end. 


Perhaps power yoga in a heated room after a year of barely moving while not feeling well was overly ambitious, if not borderline suicidal. Maybe I was hoping that this would be it and everyone could say, "Well, she tried. At least she died doing what she loved," and the people who knew me best would know that was a lie and that chair pose finally killed me like I've always said it would. 

I used to help teach yoga for kids with severe autism and one of them would angrily mutter, "I HATE YOGA," before every class. 

I'd always assure him that I hated yoga some days too, but we were doing it anyway and would feel better for it later. 

And occasionally, if I asked him if he felt better afterwards, his "I HATE YOGA" would be a little less emphatic. That's the work. He's my yoga spirit animal and guru. We don't always have to like it, we just have to do it. 

So, anyway, I thought I kicked ass that day. Mostly. I did it. 

Then came today, and I can barely get off the toilet unassisted due to my shaking muscles. (Fucking chair pose.) 

But, as I ask my children when someone comes whining during a fight, did anyone die? 

No. I did not die. 


There's still tonight though. I don't know, I think a muscle spasm could possibly do me in or I could seize up and fall off the toilet and hit my head on the tile -- the danger hasn't passed yet. 

But my "I hate yoga" is quieter now. I won't want to go again but I will and I'll hate it less and less until I realize I'm lucky to know it and have it and everyone and everything that goes with it. 

Everything but chair pose. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

One Bite

"I ate all of my dinner!" I told my husband, who is the resident chef around here. He looked over at my plate.

"No, you didn't. You didn't eat the chicken."

"Right. The chicken smells like that stuff I don't like."


"Okay. I will take one 'no thank you' bite. Maybe I will like it," I said, because that's what we require of the children, and they eat all kinds of weird stuff.

He laughed and shook his head, watching as I took the bite. I tried to be gracious, because that's the polite thing to do, but it had that stuff I don't like on it and I grimaced. "No. Thank you," I said after swallowing.

"You eat like four things."

"Right. That stuff isn't one of the four."

"It's chipotle seasoning."

"Ugh. No thanks. You know I've always hated it. The steak was amazing, but chipotle tastes like it smells. Bad."

"Being married to you is like having a toddler for life. Like, forever."

"Like having a monkey?" I asked.

"No. A monkey would be way easier."

(So there goes the argument for why we can't have a monkey. This is practically permission to get one.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chop Wood Carry Water

You know how some dog owners use a colored leash and collar to indicate a dog's mood?

You probably don't, if I read that sentence, I'd be like, "What in the hell is she talking about?" and I know. 

But some people use a yellow leash to ask you to approach with caution, or a red one to ask you to stay away.

I feel like I need that as a person. Like on some days, I will have a green signal -- I will indulge old men in boring conversations, tell random strangers they look nice today, allow people to cut me in line, and I'll be quick with a smile and greeting.

On yellow days, it would be great if people would approach slowly and speak quietly. Don't try to pet me unless I'm already wagging my tail. On yellow days I long for closeness and company while also being cautious, and I'm not sure if I want to lick you or bite you. 

On red days, stay the fuck away. It won't end well, and now that you've been warned I won't be held liable either. 

Currently, my wardrobe would be a sea of yellow. I don't know if it's the election or my age or my life experiences but people feel increasingly dangerous. It's harder to be a green, and as a naturally gregarious and outgoing person, this onslaught of yellow is damaging. Yellow is ugly. I want to love people and they make it so difficult.

I feel like my heart is a small fire and everyone is walking around with either buckets of water or kindling but I can't tell which until I get too close and they've sloshed themselves all over me. 

And my own bucket of kindling is damp and dwindling, so sometimes other people seek me out for more warmth and flame and I accidentally put out their fire too. It can take a lot to get the inferno going again, and I feel bad I don't have enough to help at the present moment.

I also don't have much energy for hunting and gathering. The dampness invites darkness, and I find myself flirting with it -- just the big eyes and fluttery lashes during the day, but nighttime brings whispered promises of a greater commitment, a longing to stay in bed wrapped up in the silky cobwebs of fogginess together forever and safe from the unpredictability of the world. Depression is a tempting lover (but not a satisfying one, and so I remind myself to stay away).

The people with water in their buckets have a lot of water right now too, more than they can carry, and maybe they need to pour some out. I want that for them; for them to dump it all out, triumphantly and forever until they are drip-dried, but my fire is so small right now that I can't let them do it near me and I avoid them and their potential sogginess altogether.

So the people with the good bits have to give out lots of it, the people with damp material are busy spreading it thin and keeping it safe, and the people with water buckets are just carelessly splashing all over the place. 

And a warning signal probably wouldn't stop them anyway. 

I've been trying to tell those closest to me to approach with caution right now, fearful that they will drop their bucket and run, maybe splashing me in the process. Most of them have admitted that their fires are small right now too. That the gathering takes so much more work lately and that they find themselves slipping into the comfort of protecting the small flame they already have versus creating something brighter and more lasting. 

My friends aren't moody like I can be, so maybe it's the current state of affairs. Sad, as an unwise man has said four thousand times on Twitter.

And the ones who spilled on me in response were just showing me what was in their bucket -- not in a mean way, but in a "I'm not the warm, dry stuff you're seeking. See this red I'm wearing?" kind of way.

Please be mindful of your bucket right now. If you have extra kindling, shower fires with it freely. If your bucket is heavy, find a way to relieve your burden without getting other people wet. 

Also, I'm sorry if you're in my real life and have seen my yellow, and wondered if it was your bucket I've been avoiding. 

If you can be the green in the ocean of yellow and red, now is your time to shine, people. In the meantime, I will kill myself to collect kindling instead of succumbing to cobwebs in the hope that one day I have enough to share again too.

(But I'll never stop with the overly involved metaphors that make little sense. Sorry.) 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Net Nanny

"I'm thinking of live streaming but I don't know what. I could do a walk through of --" Big Kid started.

"Oh, oh, I know!" I offered.


"Me dancing to Meghan Trainor songs."

"No. Nope."

"No, seriously. You could go viral."

"In the very worst way, mom. No. Absolutely not."

"Because you hate Meghan Trainor? I could do Justin Timberlake. Remember? How good I am at JT songs?"

"I could make a cameo in it." Mr. Ashley said.

The other day some cute cashier told Mr. Ashley that he looked like Justin Timberlake. I almost needed an Uber home because the car was so crowded with ego. I laugh hysterically every time it's mentioned, just like I did when she said it.

"No. Guys. God Himself will leave heaven to speak to me personally before any of you appear in one of my videos. Like, the second coming of Christ will happen first."

"So, like Tuesday?" Mr. Ashley asked.

"Well -- that's cool, though," I said, "Exciting and stuff. I'm available now. I could put pants on. Or not?"

At this point Big Kid began playing a screaming sound bite from his computer, over and over again. A continuous loop of screaming, the perfect background music for raising teenagers and for living with us.

"No. That's okay."  He said over the screaming.

"I thought no pants too. Alright. What song? Let me stretch first."

The screaming continued. Everyone ignored it.

"No. No. No. It's fine."

"Big Kid, it's no trouble, I'm happy to support you."

"I think it's really nice that you're supporting your mom, actually. This is a dream of hers."

"Well, let's face it, there's some great cross promotion opportunity here too. We probably have dozens of fans once you add them together. Go get little kid, he's been wanting to get our band off the ground. He calls it the Singing Sisters but I really think we should go with Clinton and the Secret Service."

Big Kid closed his laptop with a hard click. "Nevermind. I am just going to delete the entire internet from my life."

So. That worked out well.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Human Enough

I had to make an unexpected trip into Target yesterday and sat in the car trying to do what I could with myself in the rearview mirror first.

"Ugh. I guess I'm human enough to go in now," I muttered.

"You're always human enough, mom. You're more than human. When you're at your very ugliest -- which is never -- you're still one of the most beautiful ladies there is," said my 10-year-old,  ever at the ready with a compliment.

"Aww. Dude. Seriously. What would I do without you?"

"You'd always forget to look at the bright side of life."

And he's exactly right.

I didn't have kids so they could help with the chores (frankly, they suck so bad at chores), I had kids to help me remember life's brightness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Purpose of Parenting

After two solid hours of playful yelling, door slamming, towel slapping, pillow fighting, bathroom wrestling, screeching, threats, argumentative debates and god-knows-what-else, Mr. Ashley walked into the house and declared it unacceptable within minutes of arriving.

I laughed. "This is my life. My. Whole. Life. I've been listening to it for hours now, I've tried to stop it several times, this is just how they are. These are our children. Welcome home."

Big Kid was indignant about this truth (that I didn't even mean insultingly). "You know, all people ever do is complain about kids, and then they wonder why I'm not going to have kids. I'm not. I won't. It seems to be a miserable situation."

He really does insist he's not having kids. I've told him I don't care either way, and I don't because it affords more time to care for me in my old age. Besides, little kid will probably have a clown car full of kids.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "You are the joy of my life, my reason for being, the only motivation I have to continue to breathe some days, you are the beat of my heart, the only meaning in my universe. Doesn't mean you're not annoying as all get out sometimes."

He continued without pause, in a mocking tone. "Oh, why aren't you having kids, ask the same people who hate kids."

"Bro. You're being ridiculous. For real. You HAVE to have kids." little kid interrupted.

"No. Really. I don't. Apparently they're terrible people."

(He's 13. There's no middle ground at 13, in case you've forgotten.)

"No, listen. If you don't have kids, you have to do all the chores yourself. It's free slave labor, bro. Who would unload the dishwasher if she didn't have kids?"

He's right. I should have actually had more kids.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Stop and Grab

So, my 13-year-old is really into politics right now.

Is it because he's an intelligent young man with thoughts and opinions and a growing interest in his future and that of his country?

Or because this election makes professional wrestling look like a tea party with the queen?

I don't know, but it is what it is, and I'd rather have the sex talk every day forever than discuss most of it.

And, of course, with an interested older brother, a passionate mother, a small house, and intriguing sound bites from television, radio, and other grown-ups, the 10-year-old hears a lot too.

It may come as a surprise since I'm laid back, but I still monitor their media in a major way. PG-13 is a firm maybe, nothing scary, nothing sexually gratuitous. So the whole election wouldn't be allowed normally. They were prohibited from watching the second debate.

But they still know more than I realize, despite my careful avoidance of conversational landmines that could destroy their innocence.

The other day, little kid said, "Mom, I heard Donald Trump got caught doing something bad."

Please don't let it be pussygate, please don't let it be pussygate, please don't let it be pussygate, I screamed inside my head.

"Yeah...a few things," I answered evasively.

"What's the new one though?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure which thing you're asking about. There's been a couple."

"I think someone overheard him say something?"

"Hmmm. He says a lot of things."

"About ladies?"

"Yeah, a lot of things about ladies."

"I think there's tape of it? People are mad?"


"Do you already know what was said and just want to discuss it? You can tell me if so."

"No. Just that he said something and people are mad. And I do want to discuss it."

"Huh. Yeah. Well, the difficult thing is that what he said was so bad I can't tell you. It's hard to even give you context. But the gist of it is that he was bragging about how he could kiss women and grab their private parts without asking because he's rich. A little worse than that, but that's bad enough."


"People are mad because not only is it disrespectful, it's actual sexual assault. So he kind of said that he routinely sexually assaults women, and now women are saying that he did this to him, so it's looking pretty credible."

"Oh man. You know what I just thought of?"

Terrified to know, I asked what.

"You know that stop and frisk thing? What if he only wants that so he can touch ladies!"

And then I died a million deaths trying not to laugh at the hilarity, and horrific sadness, of that statement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Power of the People

Yesterday I took the kids to see Bill Clinton speak.

I can feel about half of you reaching to clutch your pearls at the mere thought, and I want to assure you that this post isn't really about him. 

(But he's in it, there's your trigger warning.) 

I take them to any future historical figure I can get them in front of -- they've seen George W. Bush and Barack Obama and now Bill Clinton, and more minor but just as important characters like Bill Nye and Caroll Spinney aka Big Bird. 

Anyway, what was notable, especially after the disheartening aftermath of the debates, were the people in attendance with me. 

I had to take the kids out of school and drive an hour to get to the venue, with no guarantee of getting in. Everyone stood in an unmoving line for hours in the heat, anxious about whether or not their efforts would be wasted, and connections and conversations grew between strangers as the boredom became unbearable.

We were behind a middle-aged Indian couple. She impulsively bought me a Hillary button as she bought one for herself, and he and I bared our souls about our fast and hard fall during the real estate crash and our pride about where (and who) we are now that we've rebuilt. They discussed the difficulty of being mistaken for Muslim in the white-washed area they live in and refused to be interviewed on camera for fear their business would be destroyed by supporting the area's unpopular candidate. 

There were two men behind us, a white good ol' boy type and a younger black man, who listened patiently for hours as this guy told crazy tales about all of the people who had psychotic breaks from smoking pot (he knew a lot of them) and how the entire problem with the world today is that people won't stop breeding. Not only did this guy listen with respect, he actually engaged thoughtfully in this conversation. For hours. Because this other guy needed to talk. They had nothing in common other than their place in line.

There was a group of senior citizen friends in front of us who were passionately discussing the importance of solar energy. Every once in a while all of our newly formed pairs and trios would end up in one big group discussion -- maybe 10 or 12 of us talking about our hopes and fears and pasts and futures and things we think are important. 

We finally got to the front of the line...and the door closed in front of us. This happened with Obama too, we were the last four in, and only because some kind soul saw the exhausted look of one tired lady with three heartbroken kids next in line. 

This time we were six people back. I started preparing the kids to go home and everyone was saying that we had fun anyway and it was nice to meet each other. No one was angry, or even complaining. Then an official came out and said there was room for a few more and ushered us all inside and we gave each other thumbs up and joyful smiles and quick hand squeezes before dispersing into the crowd.  

The boys and I were crammed into the back of the room where an old burly Marine-type spotted us and told me the kids wouldn't be able to see. I told him we were lucky to be there and they'd catch it on someone's iPad or phone screen, like they had Obama. He shook his head and began tapping people on the shoulder and asking them to make room so these two little boys could see a past president. 

The crowd parted willingly -- unhesitant about giving up their places. We ended up about three rows back and he wanted to continue but the people in front were a black family with young adults who I had seen near the front of the line, and I knew they waited all day. I thanked him and said we were good and he went back to his place after checking with each child that he could see the podium from where we stood.

We listened to a variety of introductory speeches from local and democratic officials, murmuring to each other about interesting snippets. There was a long pause before the main event and music played on the speakers and a small impromptu dance party broke out -- there was no room to move but everyone was shaking their hips to Mary J. Blige and songs from The Get Down soundtrack, laughing with strangers at this interlude of silliness. Tired people of all races and sizes and ages and sexual orientations. 

The man behind me was a high school teacher from Alaska, rough around the edges, and asked if I told the kids' schools why I took them out for the day. He whole-heartedly approved of skipping for this.

I replied that I had kept it vague and said we had an appointment, especially since I knew one of my sons' teachers holds different political views. 

"How do you know that?" 

"I guess it comes up. A lot." 

"You know what? I was a teacher when Obama was running and I asked my kids who they thought I was voting for. It was split 50/50, and that's when I knew I was doing a great job. You have to be objective in that environment." 

I don't disagree, but my son has his own opinions that aren't in alignment with his teacher's, and seems pretty unaffected and unimpressed. And I'm full up on conflict, no more room at the inn. One can have his opinion and the other can think he's wrong. That's politics. He agreed with that too.

The lady next to me kept hitting everyone with her camera and bag, but she was older and sweet and so excited to be there. The crowd all shifted to give her room, automatically ducking out of her photos and ignoring her purse strikes and keeping up with her happy chatter. No one sighed or gave her side eye. She was envious that my kids have seen three presidents and wanted to hear about each experience. 

The speech began and once the initial excitement wore down, one of the men in the group in front of us noticed my boys and gave me a look and gesture that made it clear he wanted them to join his family in their prime location. I nodded yes and they shuffled around to let them into the front row, closing back around my sons, their short blond heads a striking contrast in their new group, the whole beautiful lot of them cheering together about diversity and the importance of education and treating people well.

The only bit of unpleasantness -- the ONLY BIT EVER in hours of heat and standing and waiting and lots of passionate people -- was that at one point someone in the back of the room screamed something rude, breaking the quiet focus of the crowd and interrupting the speech while also shocking and scaring everyone for a moment. 

People were stunned and quiet, and then commotion began as everyone turned around to look and the crowd began to rumble angrily. 

Clinton laughed in a casual way and said, "No, guys. Nah, don't be like that. They've all had a bad week. Besides, they even bought a Hillary shirt so they could sneak in. We should thank them for that."  

The crowd laughed quietly and turned back around, completely ignoring the jerk being dragged out in a headlock by Secret Service. The entire episode of unrest lasted less than 60 seconds. My kids barely even asked about it. 

The Alaskan had to leave early, and tapped me on the shoulder to wave goodbye and mouth, "Good luck. You're a good mom." I thanked him and said he was a good teacher.

At the end of the speech, Clinton exited the stage to give handshakes and the crowd surged forward. I didn't want to lose the boys but also didn't want them giving up their prime president hand-shaking territory. The mother of the family that had accepted them into their own turned around and gave me a nod, and I knew without words that she was not only going to help keep them safe but also do her best to help them keep their coveted spots.

And President Bill Clinton looked down at little kid and grabbed his hand through the books and pens and phones being shoved in his face, and then readjusted to give him a proper handshake. 

I was 6 or 8 people back, too far to even try to reach him and only worried about the kids anyway, when he leaned into the crowd and looked right at me with his arm outstretched, and I stretched out my hand AND SHOOK HIS. 

(And I unapologetically loved it, pearl clutchers.) 

I told the guy next to me that he was lucky to get a sneaky selfie, and he pointed out that the former president went out of his way to shake my hand. We looked through the pictures on his phone, exclaiming excitedly about the one they were both in. We agreed that we were both super lucky and that it had been a fun afternoon.

We stuck around to avoid the crush of the crowd making its exit, and some college-aged boys offered to take our photo with my phone. While we hung out, I eavesdropped on their playful, boyish banter. They were smart and happy, respectful and well-spoken. The kind of young men I'd like mine to grow up to be.

We left through a back door, curious about where it would take us, and ended up on a screened walkway. At that moment Clinton and the Secret Service (that should be a band name, guys) were walking around the back of the building to greet everyone out front. It was just us and them.

I shouted out to him and he looked up at us and smiled wide and waved. The kids were thrilled. (And I was too.) Secret Service maybe a little less so. 

As we exited, we saw our Indian friends and hugged them goodbye after exchanging business cards, and saw the annoying old guy talking the ear off of a protestor and wished him the best of luck, and told the happy lady with the camera that we hoped to see her at another presidential event. 

All day long, I never heard one hateful word about the other candidate. Incredulous disbelief and some amused talk about that Saturday Night Live skit, but the focus was on the positive. That was impressive in itself.

And yeah, it was awesome that we got to shake a president's hand. But what was more awesome were the people in that building. 

Goodness gracious, at a time that I needed to know (more than ever) that people are good, I ended up in a building chock full of extraordinarily good people. 

The universe has my back.

Bill Clinton said, "There is nothing wrong with America that can't be solved by what is right about America," and it felt wonderful to believe it thanks to the company I kept that day. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

White Lies

This morning my 10-year-old looked me right in the eye and asked, "Mom, if Donald Trump gets elected, will we be okay?"

I've heard variations of this question since the matter first came up. Originally I laughed and assured him that he would not even get nominated since he has no experience. Then I scoffed and promised that people can't and won't support this. Gradually, I moved on to pointing out that people are good, and people will always be good, regardless of who is in charge. Lately I offer up the fact that four years isn't long at all.

And this time, fresh after the debates, the answer didn't come as easily.

Because we're not okay now.

No matter what happens on November 8th, we will forever live with the fact that roughly half of us identify with a man that -- I was going to start a list, but there's no need. They identify with THIS man; they think this is what we need more of in our world. They want this to represent us.

Our children -- who have been taught to be kind to others, treat everyone as equals, not bully people over their looks, last name, disabilities, or socioeconomic status, who were born without an ounce of hate in their pure bodies -- are inheriting a future that is half this.

The burden on their little tiny backs, that they don't even know they're carrying, crushes me as a mother and a human being.

No, we're not okay. I can't believe it, but we're not.

What the fuck, people. How are we this not okay?

But motherhood is about making things better. Right this second and in five minutes and in five days and in five weeks and in five years. My job is to work towards that, no matter how impossible it may seem. My work is to fix the unfixable and make the unbearable bearable.

"Of course we'll be okay! There are checks and balances for a reason. All of this isn't anything for you to worry about. Just a lot of talk," as I avoided the terrifying 'they're just words' phrase Trump throws around so cavalierly. "Remember, people are good," I lied. "We will be the good."

I'm raising sons in a world where the statement "Grab her by the pussy" is all over the news and being defended by people on my Facebook page.

No, my sweet boy who befriends kids who speak other languages or are differently abled. No, innocent child who would think the national discussion is about holding cats nicely. No, my little man who has been taught not to cheat or lie or step on others to rise up.

We're not okay, and I'm sorry about that, but we're going to be okay. Somehow.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Walk Through Life

Today on the way to school my 10-year-old pointed out an old lady walking on the sidewalk with a younger man.

"I bet that's her son and I bet he's taking her to church," he noted. "That's really nice."

We love the old people who go to the church across from his school, and their many modes of transportation. It's a block from the beach, so they ride street legal golf carts, shuffle along with their walkers, or, our favorite is a guy that has to be in his '90s who rides his mobility scooter -- orange flag flying high -- right down the street and into our turning lane.

"When I'm an old lady will you walk me to church?" It was one of those moments that made me overly emotional, because I know he would.

"Of course!" He was quiet for a moment, I thought probably sentimental like me. "No offense, mom, but I don't see you asking to go to church, though."

"Well, will you walk me to yoga?"


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bro Fashion

"Just once I would like to see him dressed like a human being. I'd like to see him wearing a shirt, wearing a shirt right side out, wearing pants -- "  Big Kid was looking at his younger brother with disdain and ranting.

Just another day in the life.

I looked over. He was shirtless, but wearing pants. Size 6 (he's a 10-12) pajama bottoms at 3pm that were shorter than capris, but whatever, they were pants.

"Actually, he's wearing pants," I pointed out.

"Hold on here, I'm listing some variables. I want to see him wearing pants that are not mine, pants that fit properly, pants that are not backwards, pants that haven't mysteriously appeared out of nowhere that belong to no one in this family, pants that aren't inside out, pants that aren't pajamas, underwear -- God, underwear every single time, but not just any underwear, only his own underwear. If he has a shirt on, I think he should also have pants AND underwear on and vice versa. The tags should be in the back and inside, at all times. Is this too much to ask? Any of these things?"

I considered his frustration, and then the impossibility of enforcing most of this. I looked over at little kid, with his 8-inches-too-short pajama pants with skulls on them, looking wounded. I remembered insisting that he put pants on because I was tired of seeing the backwards boxers he was rocking before that and I felt like the results were a reasonable compromise.

"It really is. Technically, he is wearing pants."

"It's ridiculous. My life is ridiculous."

"I don't disagree. I just don't know what you want me to do about it."

I'm not that big on wearing pants myself. It seems hypocritical to become the fashion police. If we're dressed in public, we're doing okay.

Sorry, Big Kid. You deserved a normal family.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Singing Sisters

"Sing it with me, mom!" little kid shouted.

"No. I can't."

"Why not?"

"I don't want to."

"What?! You're part of the Singing Sisters. You can't not want to."

(This is the first time I've heard our band name, or even knew we were in one. It's not what I would have picked, but okay.)

I ignored him then, because I didn't want a bunch of noise in the first place and was trying to make it stop.

"Mom," his voice was pleading. "Think of our brand."

"I can't. Your brother has forbidden any outward expression of my joy."

"Well, that's too bad. It's not about him. It's about us, our band, our fame."

I remained quiet.



"On my college application, when they ask about my accomplishments, I'm gonna tell them how I formed the band the 'Singing Sisters' with my mom. And how they've probably never heard of us, but we're huge on Snapchat."

"Oh, honey. Then you're never moving out."

"I know, mom. Don't worry. Singing Sisters forever."

Guys, I'm a little worried.

(Also, we're not huge on Snapchat. We have approximately 8 followers, 2 who watch consistently. And we don't sing. You can follow us @AshleyFrankly but I don't know why you'd want to.)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Future of Entertainment

After watching hours of murder reality television, mostly because I'm too lazy to make decisions about what to watch next and also because I find the narrator voices soothing, I realized how depressing it was.

"We should turn this off. We should get rid of the televisions," I said, never one to do anything half-ass (except for all the other things).

Mr. Ashley ignored me.

"We should just watch kittens instead."

I have four cats now. I don't know if I fail at kitten rescue or if I'm amazing at it, but I have double the number of cats I intended to have and quadruple the number he wants. It's a sore subject.

I love the cats, though. A lot. All day and night long.

"Ashley. You are crazy. The cat thing is out of control. I'm not joking right now."

"Wait, wait -- you never listen. Hear me out. We get a big box and two more cats. We decorate the box to look like a gigantic television set, put all six of the cats in there and watch them instead."

He stared at me. Incredulous? Impressed? Hard to say.

"No, for real, you are literally insane. As in, I am seriously concerned for you and your future because you get crazier by the second and I don't want to live like this, with more cats."

"Why? Because we need a minimum of six cats to make it work? Admit it, it's an amazing idea."

"No. It's not. It's even crazier than having four cats."

So, I need two more cats and a box that looks like a television before the presidential debates tonight. He'll come around.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


My kids have iPhones.

People like to be all judgy about this, but they are used iPhone 4s, they were gifts, it makes my life more convenient and people would be judgy about something else if they didn't have iPhones, so put it on the list.

Neither of my kids is glued to their phone. That's not to say they practice a healthy amount of device time -- just that this particular bad habit hasn't set in yet. Due to their unfamiliarity with the phone and how it works, Big Kid accidentally tries to FaceTime me every time he means to call, and then immediately hangs up and calls because we are not a FaceTime-type family.

When it happened yesterday, I answered, "Did you want to FaceTime?"

"No. Sorry about that. I need you --"

"It's no problem. I could dance to Meghan Trainor songs for you, I know you love that."

"No, really, mom, that's fine. I'm ready to --"

"Rock the beat with Justin Timberlake? Right. I get it. You could dance too, that is the fun of FaceTime."

"Mom. Please. There are people around."

"Oh, that's fine! Perfect, really. They can watch. It you set the phone up on the table and call everyone around, it should work. I can turn Meghan up super loud too, let me get the bluetooth speaker."

"No, no. Mom. It's fine. We can do that later," he promised, realizing this bit would never end.

"But your friends may not be available later."

"Well, we'll call them. That's the thing about FaceTime."

"I mean, I suppose. I'm feeling good now though, it seems like my time to shine."

"I know. You could. It would be great. Really. I swear. Could you please pick me up now?"

"Before or after the dancing?"

"Mom? Please?"

And that's why my kids have iPhones.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Eye of the Beholder

Today as we were sitting in traffic, I looked over at the car next to us and gasped, "Wow," and then another when I saw its occupant.

I live in a wealthy city and seeing Maseratis isn't usually notable but this was the most beautiful car with the most beautiful woman in it that I had ever seen -- the kind of polished and perfect beauty that only comes with great riches.

"What?" My 10-year-old asked.

"That car is beautiful -- like unusually and expensively so. And so is the lady inside."


"Oh. Nothing. I was just noticing. And impressed. And maybe a little envious?"

"Why? You are beautiful. And you drive a black car just like her."

Guys, I drive a used VW Jetta with a broken side mirror. I was wearing the same cut-offs I've worn the last 2 days. My hair was in a messy ponytail -- like, totally unbrushed, and I had no make-up on.

She was in a high end Maserati (I know nothing about cars, but I know it wasn't one of the "cheap" ones). She had glossy, long, curled dark hair blowing behind her, perfectly pouty glossed lips, not a line on her face, and her rings were blinding me as she held up her phone.

"Haha. Thank you, honey. It's a little different but I appreciate it."

"Well...maybe just because your hair is in a ponytail."

And I laughed, because that was hilarious...but he meant it. This was not your typical kiss-assery. He was both sincere and confused at my admiration of her.

"I'm never going to grow out of telling you you're beautiful, it's not just because I'm little that I think that," he said when I laughed.

And, man, I hope he doesn't.

Because I'll never have a Maserati.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

You Know What

Every conversation:

"Mom, you know what?"

"What? No...wait. I'm sorry but, you know, you could just start the story -- "

"That's what I'm trying to do."

"I mean without starting it with a question. It would save some time."

"I don't have a question, I'm trying to tell you something."

"Okay. Right. Yes. What?"

"You know what happened today?"

"You did it again. I don't want to say 'what' again, just tell the story."

"If you'd stop interrupting, I would."

No. I don't know what. I don't know what happened today. I probably don't want to either. There's a 85% chance this story is going to involve something someone said on YouTube and will last long enough for me to contemplate my own mortality; let's just get the show on the road here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


So, we homeschooled Big Kid last year. For reasons. I was going to do it again this year too, even bigger and better, but one day we were walking on the beach and he announced he would be returning to public school for 8th grade. I was surprised, and asked if he was sure, reminding him of the fun changes we were going to make.

He replied, "Yeah, I need some life stories. You know?"

I know. It was a sigh of relief, even though I truly enjoy his company.

(But my own company? People, it's exquisite.)

I was apprehensive about his return to middle school and thought it may take him a while to assimilate; that he may be shy or reserved, or less mature than the others after a year away.

I was wrong. It happens sometimes.

"Today we had a substitute who was saying girls are pretty," Big Kid announced over dinner on Friday.

"What a weirdo."

"No, mom, he was saying specific girls in class were pretty."

"Uh, seriously? Like pointing people out?"

"Yes. It was incredibly creepy. He was also telling us that they had leftovers in the class before us and he said that only gorgeous girls could have some, and then pointed to a table and said, 'Not you, you're all ugly' and before he could clarify that he was kidding, some girl started crying."

"Are you serious? Did one of the kids from that class tell you this? Because sometimes things get exagger -- "

"HE told us this. Gleefully. It was very unsettling." He said gleefully and unsettling because he is the child of my heart and mind.

"Yeah. Well, I know it's awkward but I'm going to have to tell someone about this."

"You can do whatever you want but I'm telling my teacher myself as soon as I see her on Tuesday. No way can I let that slide and she needs to hear it from someone who was there."

"Oh. Yeah. No. I'm proud of you for being willing to speak up. Was he old?"

"So, so, so old. Bald and liver spots old. But it doesn't matter, he made everyone uncomfortable and someone has to call him out on that kind of behavior. My teacher needs to know, he was her replacement."

I'm still going to follow up but it sounds like he has it handled. And I'm impressed and proud of his willingness to speak up about a situation on behalf of others.

Kids these days.

Are a lot more civilized than many of their elders.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Little Prince is Hugely Awesome

I watched The Little Prince on Netflix the other night and can't stop thinking about it.

Not only was it stunning to look at, but it was so deeply meaningful. I mostly put it on to fill some time before bed on an endless day, an effort that is mostly futile now that my kids are at an age where they're reluctant to hang out with me. 

little kid was hooked immediately and within five minutes declared it a work of art. 

But then something interesting happened. Big Kid, 13 and bad ass, food/movie/humanity critic extraordinaire, wandered in and stopped. "Is that stop motion animation?" He asked. 

"I don't know. Is it?" I replied, because he'd know. 

It was. 

He paced around for a bit, shifting from foot to foot. 

We exclaimed about the movie's visual beauty...and he didn't disagree. He slowly, gradually, eventually...joined us on the bed and watched.

He liked it. We all liked something. 

I mean, it's more of a miracle than the Virgin Mary on toast. 

We were all so moved by the ending and the movie's message that there was even a few minutes of quiet contemplation and discussion afterwards. 

I CANNOT believe this movie was released straight to Netflix (no offense Netflix or movie). I would have been thrilled to have seen it in the theater, and I say that as someone who is meh on theaters (thanks to loud popcorn chewers and cell phone checkers). The fact that Netflix is my secret lover has absolutely nothing to do with my love of this movie and my level of "How lucky are we to have seen that so easily and inexpensively?" 

We were so blown away by it that each of us interrupted the movie at some point to exclaim over how amazing it all was, and everyone agreed each time.

The Little Prince was beautiful in every way -- to look at, to listen to, to think about and I can't believe it's not all anyone is talking about. I loved it like I love Up, and that's huge. 

So, you should watch it. Even if only for a couple of hours of peace and quiet. But it will be more than that. 

*I wrote this post as a member of the Netflix Stream Team. I receive free Netflix in exchange for sharing my thoughts on what I'm watching on Netflix, and sometimes Netflix and I flirt with each other a little bit. It's like a friends with benefits thing, but the benefits are Netflix originals and hearing me talk about them so I'm clearly the winner of this deal but don't tell them I said that.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Censored

The trickiest part of my art and heart being connected, and shared in such a public way (yes, we’re calling this art right now since “public display of my narcissism” lacks the same charm) is that chapters of the story have to go untold since not all of the characters in my book of life agreed to this, and their narrative would be different than mine.

 (But when I write that non-fiction book posing as fiction, you’re all so screwed, real life people who are hilarious characters.)

I had the summer of lost and found, more or less.  I put things down and picked things up all over the place: people, pieces of me, connections, grudges, emotions, perspectives that needed a nudge in a new direction, and cats — so many cats.

There was sadness and joy and drama and excitement and love and pain and literal blood and tears (cats), and it was all kind of terrible and also kind of wonderful.

I had 99 problems, for real, yo. And I still had fun and adventures and laughed until it hurt too many times to count. I'm down to about 9 problems now, which is average for me. So, progress.

Some of it may have seemed destructive but just like a seed has to crack open and shed its broken pieces to grow, so did I. And growth fucking hurts, by the way. Growing pains are real, but they happen in your soul. It’s disruptive and uncomfortable.

 The new thing you’re nurturing usually ends up a thing of beauty, but getting there is a bitch.

And I’m one of those annoying orchid-like plants that needs support so I don’t fall over or start to grow in the wrong direction — “face the sun and drink water” are instructions I can’t consistently manage alone, but I also can’t be overcrowded or I might die. So I routinely become parched and wilt, over-watered and droop; I try to lean on things too unstable to support my growth and pieces of me break off.

I think, “Shit, I’m dying,” at least once a week. Or once a day. Or once an hour.

 I don’t have a green thumb for plant life or real life, so it all takes a lot of work to thrive. But I’m more hardy than I feel. Also, I have observant friends — people who are just as willing to pull my weeds as they are to admire my blooms.

I’ve done the plant thing to death, haven’t I? And you still don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s why you should read books, my friends. They are pretty much obligated to clear up all mysteries. Rest assured that whatever you’re imagining is likely much more interesting than what I’ve been dealing with anyway, and that's what I like about you.

Anyway, I had to vague post so that we could close the chapter on this summer. Because it’s over. Thank the sweet baby Jesus in his lovely little swaddling cloths, summer wasn’t really forever.

But here’s a summary of the awesome stuff:

One of my friends bought a gigantic slip and slide. Enough said.

Catfish and I went to a Sowflo concert and got to ride with the band on their party bus. We got to do this because we’re officially, “I am with the band...’s dad” years old. One of their moms was our preschool teacher and we drank with her that night.

Here’s my favorite song of the summer (just a coincidence that the title is so appropriate). I love these guys and their incredible talent. And they're nice young men. I knew I was old when I found myself thinking of how proud their parents must be while watching them perform.

A stray cat had kittens in my back yard. I caught them all and have a feral cat colony in my bathroom and this is actually not a good thing. They make up a good handful of my 99 problems. I got a cute kitten named Calliope out of it though. But, my bathroom probably needs to be renovated now. Again.

I went scallop hunting on vacation and this was amazing fun. It’s like a treasure hunt to search for the ridged shell with the line of blue eyes peeking up from the underwater grasses. I snorkeled for hours, until my entire back was bright pink, and it was worth the eventual agony.

My friend Lyn and I escaped to The Standard, a sexy hotel in Miami Beach. When we got there, some guy at the front desk was complaining about something, and while waiting patiently behind him, I mentioned to her that it had been a dream of mine to stay in one of the rooms that has a claw-foot tub on the canvas-enclosed front patio, and the beautiful woman at the front desk upgraded us on the spot.

We listened to the Hamilton soundtrack all summer long. Big Kid said, “This is the kind of writer I’m going to be when I grow up,” the first time he heard it and little kid cries every single time and knows every word. This is one of those things that sounds little but was so big, and added such an interesting depth to our days and discussions as a family.

Big Kid (and I) successfully survived summer sleep away camp.

Also, I no longer have a child in the single digits age-wise. Not too upset about it, either.

And now the kids are back in school and life is settling down and I can rest easy that summer is not forever, and I am neither lost nor dying, just trying to grow bigger and deeper and brighter as usual.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dear little kid,

Something incredible happened 10 years ago today.

I made magic. I -- imperfect, ordinary, often unhappy, kind of chaotic, half-glass-empty-me. I created it and grew it and brought it forth into the universe. I made a little spark of the very thing I wasn't sure truly existed. It came into the world with you, a golden glow.

You are curiosity, charisma, kindness, generosity, and wild and wonderful wit in one dynamic little package.

You find fascinating things because you're always looking and you're able to see the wonder in the ordinary. Your personality fills rooms. You seek out the separate and draw them in, allowing for an understanding exit if your attempts at connection don't work out. You are confident and brave. You see the best in others, always.

If something bad happens to you, your first reaction is to celebrate that it didn't happen to someone less equipped to deal with it.

You love freely, help generously, joke easily, approach boldly.

You are everything I want to be and everything I wish everyone else was.

You are a gift from the universe, a daily reminder to me that everything I want in the world exists under my roof. You really are magic, the very best kind.

Happy Birthday, little kid. Thank you for the honor of 10 joy-filled years of being your mother, and for the everyday reminder that magic is real. And that it is in 5th grade and leaves its socks on my floor.

I like you, I love you, and I'll always protect you,


Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Heights

"Did you see that some guy scaled Trump Towers using suction cups or something?" I asked Big Kid.

"I did. That's hilarious."

"The way the media is covering it is funny too, I keep seeing him referred to as only his first name. Wait, what was his name? It was something really aver--"

"Ted Cruz."

I laughed. "No, not Ted Cruz, that was the -- "

"Mom...I know. That's the joke. Can you go with it? I mean, with this election season, it's not even that unlikely that the accused Zodiac Killer would climb up a presidential candidate's building, right?"

I can totally go with it. This kid is getting smarter and funnier than me by the second though, and that's scarier than Ted Cruz's weird little smirk.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dear Big Kid,

If your life was a road trip, I would find myself wondering why on earth we ever did even one mile over the speed limit, why we passed any other cars, why we didn’t make more stops along the way. I already regret every, “Are we there yet?”

You’re 13 today and you wear it well. This is both a compliment and not. You are moody and emotional, complicated and complex. You have opinions and insights about the world, politics, humanity, and movie reboots. There are things in your life I don’t know, which is a relatively new phenomenon. Or so I like to think.

You’re also witty and sweet, ethereally handsome, and still boyish in all of the right ways, even as your shoulders are broadening and your feet outpace mine in size and stride.

The teenage years are like a highway under construction — the trip takes on a new element of challenge, even for an experienced driver, with detours and barricades and near constant confusion. I’m learning to appreciate the traffic and the opportunity it provides to remember that this journey won’t be forever…and that’s the best and worst thing.

One day we will roll up to our destination and it will be awesome in the un-casual sense, in the true meaning of the word awe. The adult version of you will dwarf the wonder of the Grand Canyon. You are the gift that I have given the world and I am confident in my offering. I will revel in the success of our arrival…and I will mourn our journey’s ending all the same. I will lament those cheesy roadside attractions that I chose to skip, and the boring hours will take on the rosy glow that only nostalgia can bring.

I love you, Big Kid. My actual big kid now.

I hope I’ve planned enough and not too much, I hope I’ve made the hours pass with ease, I hope you know that I knew the way even when it seems like I didn’t. Because you are my way.

Thanks for accompanying me so closely on this leg of our trip through life, and for being the best guide I could give and get.

I like you, I love you, and I’ll always protect you.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stranger Things

Guys, summer is forever. 

There's a lot going on, and that's part of the problem. 

There's so much going on. And nothing at all going on. It feels rather terminal, but I know it is not.  The challenge lies in remembering that it will all be over soon.  I love my kids, and I hate packing lunches, but I dare anyone to ask me for a popsicle one more time. Seriously. Ask me. Do it. 

I fucking dare you. 

My saving grace has been Stranger Things on Netflix. I'm not into horror, or sci-fi, or cool shit that everyone else likes, but I was hooked from the very second I saw the promo still for the first episode. 

It's like if Stephen King and the Goonies and everything good about the '80s had a baby. I love the cast and the costumes and the story line -- and let's face it, Winona Ryder is a bad ass and always will be. Stranger Things is like a time machine back to my childhood with a little more terror and mystery. 

Escaping back to the '80s each night has been a blessing in disguise this summer, even if it involves aliens and scary shit. 

Go ahead and enjoy a psychological thriller that doesn't involve snack food or outings with camp kids present. 

And may God bless every mom, and help us through this trying time. 

*I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and get free Netflix in exchange for my opinions -- yeah, it's a sweet gig. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016


little kid, aged 9, is borderline weird in his love for me.

And I can't help but love it.

To say he is full of compliments is an understatement -- it's more like I have a miniature poet following me around on some days.

Today he came into my room and said, "You know, I've been thinking. I always talk about how you're gorgeous, because you are gorgeous, and I don't say that you also have a really good personality. Like, people really like you and I'm not just saying that because you're my mom. It's nice that you are even nicer on the inside."

I laughed at the sweetness and strangeness of that as he continued. "You're kind of like nature's candy; like you look good and you are good. But not to eat."

"Well...thank you? That's really nice of you to say, and wow on the nature's candy thing."

I mean, seriously.

For his future wife's sake, I hope he never outgrows it.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pull In and Push Back

I would like to just take a minute to congratulate myself, and accept your appreciation, on my lack of political opinions on the internet lately.

(Twitter doesn't count.)

Not to be dramatic, but the entire rest of the world is slowly killing me. So slowly though, like the world has straightened out a paperclip and is stabbing me with it repeatedly -- short, annoying, constant jabs that sometimes pile up until I lie in bed at night and wonder if all of these little hurts could add up one day, that all of the little pinpricks might let my soul leak out onto the sidewalk until people are stepping over the puddle of me and arguing over who will be responsible for cleaning it up.

Not to be dramatic.

I am 85% sure that the world is not a safe place for someone so easily affected, and yet I'm stuck here. I also think the internet is a big problem, because the whole world is in my lap and I can't brush it off when it feels like the sky is falling. But if I zoom in to my own tiny little bubble, it's so much easier to remember that it isn't.

So there is a constant push and pull of tightening my circle until it's so small that I am in control and widening my worldview in an attempt to have empathy for every side of every issue, so that I can understand what's happening.

And I'm not depressed, just disappointed in the planet's general vibe. Seriously. Get your shit together, entire rest of the world.

I watched Welcome to Leith on Netflix recently, a documentary about a white supremacist that sets up shop in a small, sleepy town, and how it changes everything. Their circle was tight, life was zoomed in enough to care about your neighbors, and then some loud, determined, fairly clever idiots moved in swiftly and changed their little world through careful maneuvering and politics.

It was a small stage battle, but powerful in its implications, and terrifying in its potential, and revealing in how important it is to push back, even/especially when it feels scary to do so.

You should watch it. And you should pull your real people in so close that you don't forget that they're the ones that matter. And you should speak up against injustice, even when it feels futile, because it can come for your people, too.

But do it on Twitter, Facebook is bad enough.

(*Note: I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. I get free Netflix, which is proof that there is a higher power making sure we each have what we need. My opinions on politics, the world, Facebook, nazis, the internet, and/or idiots are my own.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer o' Snark

Part of Big Kid's sleep away camp experience involved exploring the arts along with nature. He wrote a humorous Dear Abby column one day, which included the line:

So if you’re a farmer (and you might be, if you’re still reading the newspaper)...

Big Kid's brand of snark makes me look as sweet as Pollyanna. I know people think he gets it from me, but he has so far surpassed anything I could hope to achieve in terms of dry wit, that maybe I get it from him.

We were at the beach the other day and a woman sat down next to us with a bunch of middle schoolers and proceeded to have all kinds of raunchy and inappropriate conversations, up to and including how her son was an accident and period talk. Very educational for all. Then they left their trash behind.

As we recounted this story for friends, while trying to delicately imply that she was rough around the edges, Big Kid interrupted to add, "She had a rose gold iPhone," in a way that made everyone understand.

(Sorry, people with rose gold iPhones.)

Snarky little a-hole, but on such a subtle level that it's hard to correct someone for disparaging the paper and rose gold iPhones.

(He reluctantly agrees the mini MacBook is cute in pink, because I made a strong case for it.)

When I picked him up from camp, I asked what he had liked doing and he loudly (in front of his counselors) said: "Everything but journalism! Why would they make us do that? What a waste of time!"

"Big Kid! Journalism is very important! Also, your mom is a writer."

"Are we seriously calling what you do journalism?"

"No, but what I do is probably a step below journalism so let's not go there. Also, I saw that you were making fun of newspapers? I do have a newspaper column..."

"Right, mom, a newspaper. I mean..."

"Newspapers are important. They represent a tangible connection to your community and..."

"Right, farmers and old people need them. I know."

He's not wrong, he's just about to be a teenager. And their brand of not being wrong is difficult.