Wednesday, May 28, 2008

and that, I guess, is that

Iris, whose story begins here, moved away a few days ago. We knew the move was coming; she had been talking about it for a few months now, saying very matter-of-factly that her mom didn't like Asheville because it's too much of a big city and the air quality is bad. 

The real issue, of course, is that there are too many people getting in the way of her mom's ability to be crazy, which there always will be. They haven't lived in the same spot for more than nine months since Iris has been with her. 

On the day they left, they still didn't know where they were moving to. It was either going to be Minnesota or California, and then at the last minute, Boone, NC, two hours away from here, got thrown into the mix as well. 

I haven't written about Iris in the last few months, in part because this blog was getting more local readers and I didn't feel right about it, and in part because we'd been seeing so much less of Iris than we used to. After her mom banned her from coming over here to play, and especially after she found out about her many clandestine visits, things changed. Iris formed bonds with others in the neighborhood, including a couple of families we're friends with, and I began hearing about her through them more than I was interacting with her directly. They were the ones who were now feeding her and watching her on snow days and weekends and any other time Sonia couldn't be bothered. 

I felt like I had disengaged from Iris emotionally, and yet I got teary when I hugged her goodbye. There was a lot I wanted to say to her but I didn't say anything except, "Take care."And now, days later, I can't stop thinking about her. Some people moved into their apartment right away, and every time I look over and see the drapes they've hung, I feel disoriented and then just really sad.  

A few days before Iris left, a mom she had grown close to gave her some prepaid postcards addressed to a bunch of us in the neighborhood so that Iris could keep in touch. But Sonia wouldn't let her keep them. 

I was simultaneously not at all surprised and completely devastated by this woman's cruelty. 

Another thing Sonia wouldn't let Iris keep was her bike, which she got around Christmas from some other neighborhood friends whose daughter had outgrown it. Iris rode that bike like crazy every day, sometimes with a posse of kids, sometimes on her own cruising for company or just needing to be away from home. Sometimes, too, I'd see her ride painfully slowly, circling, while her mom walked nearby, stopping at every corner, or whenever she came across something on the sidewalk that disturbed her, to go through her tap-tap-tap routine.  

Anyway, Iris really loved her bike. It's still parked on the sidewalk in front of her old house. None of us knows what to do with it. 

Friday, May 23, 2008

some thoughts on NPR coverage from young listeners

"Barack OBAMA? Barack Obama! Barack Obamamamamama! Baracko...bama! Who's that?" (Levi)

"Why are they always talking about killing and sword fights and stuff?" (Ezra)

"I don't like this teacher talk." (Lilah) 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

whirled peas

If you've ever done any meditation (and if you haven't, please return to the 20th century), then you know that often, visualization is part of the deal. You're supposed to make a picture in your head of happiness, or safety, or calm, or some such fantasy, whatever it looks like to you. 

I've never been able to do that. Once, a Chinese healer dude, trying to guide me through a meditation practice, asked me to picture a peaceful place and insert myself there, and my internal dialogue went something like this:

Me: Umm..... How about the beach in the Virgin Islands where I went on family vacations when I was girl?
Me: A goddamn beach? How unoriginal can you get? 
Me: But it was a really nice beach. Remember those thin yellow rafts, and how clear the water was, and the way the sun reflected off of it?
Me: Sigh. If only I had applied sunscreen instead of baking myself for hours every day, my skin wouldn't be the wrinkly shoe leather that it is today.
Me: It was a nice. Fucking. Beach.
Me: It is a totally obvious. Fucking. Beach. 
Me: Do you have any brilliant ideas?
Me: What about a forest? 
Me: Oh, a forest. There's something no one's ever thought of before. And besides, what forest? 
Me: Some generic forest. I don't know, Austria. Austria has forests, doesn't it?
Me: Yeah, but it's too cold there. 

It wasn't relaxing at all. 

Another time, an energy worker asked me to come up with an image of comfort, and I was like, "I don't dog?" I loved my dog very much, but she didn't feel like the picture of comfort to me. She was kind of smelly, actually. Yet this woman was standing there waiting, the clock was ticking, so that's what I told her. 

Then there was the hypnotherapist who guided me along a river and through a lovely field filled with tall grass. It was a total relief because she was doing the describing, except at the end of the field, apparently, there was a rainbow, and then she asked me to tell her what colors the rainbow had. And because I completed third grade, I knew the colors were Roy G. Biv, but that obviously wasn't supposed to be my personal rainbow's color scheme, otherwise she wouldn't have asked. But I just couldn't get Roy out of my head.

By the way, what colors is your rainbow? 

But the weirdest thing happened to me a couple of months ago. In one of about 29 million attempts to figure out how to control my reactivity and, essentially, not be such a crazed bitch so much of the time, an image came to me, out of the blue. 

I started to see my anger and all my other feelings as something outside of me, instead of a part of me. These emotions were hanging down in front of me like stalactites inside a cave--big, heavy shapes that I could look at, and walk around, and sometimes had to duck under to keep from smacking right into. It's a crude, simple picture, it's not going to win any awards for artistry, but it worked for me. With it, I began to understand that I could separate from my feelings rather than letting them control me. 

I still lose my shit on a regular basis, but whereas I used to fume and brood and rehash arguments with new and improved comebacks for hours and days beyond, at least now, after the loss of shit, I can sit quietly and envision my special place with its dangly feelings, and I can see myself moving around them, and then that's exactly what I do. 

That's progress, people.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

oh, it's nothing really

Didn't mean to get your hopes up, KD. It's just that my mom is nuts--and I don't mean that colloquially, but in the true, formal sense of the word. She is literally, diagnosably nuts. 

But I promised myself I wouldn't write about her on this here blog, even though she doesn't know about it. (We're close like that.) I already wrote an entire book that was more or less about her and I'm committed to moving on to other topics--at least in terms of my writing, if not in terms of the energy I expend feeling angry, brooding, and grieving. Maybe someday that will follow.

I will say, though, that I've learned that when she plans a visit, I need to schedule a few days following to be a basket case. I allow myself that. 

It's gone rather well this time. Highlights have included a three-hour nap and several unnecessary handfuls of chocolate snap cookies on top of the original couple of handfuls, which were themselves completely unnecessary. Oh, and there was some wine involved too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


My mom visited for the weekend. She is a very taxing woman. I am now recuperating. More later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

driving the point home

Yesterday I was having a really hard time, and as I was going through my post-shower primping routine, to the extent that I have one, I started thinking about my blog, and how I was going to write a post about what a hard time I was having. 

I began to compose the post in my head, and right at that moment, I reached down to put my hairbrush away in the vanity and slammed the drawer into my thumbnail. I have a really low tolerance for pain, as my husband is always pointing out (although I always like to point out in return that I climb Masada with meningitis when I was 14), but believe me when I say it hurt like hell, even though the drawer didn't appear to be moving with that much force. It was just one of those things that seem inconsequential but end up causing great pain, like a paper cut. Or a hangnail. 

I yelped, and then I sat down on the toilet, which was the nearest horizontal surface, and bawled for about five minutes. I also peed, because, you know, there I was; I figured I might as well. 

After that, I felt much better.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

shit rainbows

My blog is giving me a complex. When I work at a post, I hate it because it seems inauthentic, like I'm trying too hard. When I abandon coherence and rhythm and go for raw sentiment, I hate it because it seems sloppy. 

Then there's the whole site meter thing. 

I guess, to be fair to my blog, I already had the complex. I already had many complexes.

Yesterday I went swimming for the first time in a long time. What I love most about swimming is that I love swimming even though I suck at it. My parents claimed when I was 12 that my swim coach at camp that summer had told them I was a talented swimmer but fated not to go anywhere with the sport because my feet were too small. I don't know if he said that or not, but they believed it, and I did too for a while. I've since realized that my problems with biomechanics and physiology are more extensive than that, though I don't know what they are exactly. I've studied videos of elite swimmers and read up on proper stroke technique, but no matter how hard I try, I'm really seriously slow. I'm a decent athlete; I'm just not a swimmer. 

Still, I do my laps, and that makes me happy. And yesterday was no exception, even though it became obvious to me after the first lap that after so much time away, this was going to be a challenge. 

I hang onto that: the knowledge that at least in one domain, I can enjoy myself even though I'm not good, and the hope that maybe over time this gift will transfer to other areas. 

Today, my hip flexor muscles are so sore that I had to lift my left leg with my hands every time I wanted to step on the emergency brake. 

As I was driving around this morning, it began to rain--enough that I had to turn the wipers on, but not enough to actually rinse off the windshield, which was covered in bird shit since we've got a village of starlings living under the eaves of our house, driveway-side. 

The wipers just smeared the shit around on the windshield, and I thought, "Oh, shit! Shit." But then I noticed that because of the motion of the wipers, two grayish arcs were forming. I just knew that if Ezra had been in the car with me, he would have said, "Mommy, look! Rainbows!" 

So I tried to put that spin on it: shit rainbows. I mean: yes, shit, but shit rainbows. It felt a little forced. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

in lieu of a coherent post, a few items

1. Ezra asked me if Pennsylvania is shaped like a pencil. Also: if "dying a slow death" looks like falling to the ground in slow motion. Also, on the subject of heart disease: how could he possibly change the way he eats--by eating while standing on his head? while lying on his stomach?

2. Lilah ate cream cheese for dinner. Straight from the tub. (See, I write that, and then I'm all, Stop trying to go for that "I'm such a shitty parent, but I own it, and that's what makes me so cool" effect.

But she did eat cream cheese straight from the tub.

But I chose to write about it.)

3. I've started immediately throwing the "I love you Mommy" artwork that Ezra brings home from school into the recycling. After the first 50, it stopped seeming genuine and started to seem more like a Tourette's tic.

4. Levi...middle child...can't think of anything to say about him....

Friday, May 9, 2008

like hitting snooze

Last night I dreamed that I was dying. I was at the doctor's office for a routine visit and we were looking at my blood in a vial. It was behaving badly: clotting and bubbling up, coiling back on itself. And up there on the doctor's computer screen was an urgent notice flashing that I had hematoglobula-something, which meant that I was going to die really soon.

I was pushed out into the parking lot in a wheelchair, where I sat in the baking sun and cried about my kids growing up without their mother. And Stupiddaddy said, "But you'll see them from wherever you are." I conceded that I might, but my point was that they wouldn't be able to see me. And as much as I am fucking them up by being around them, I was going to fuck them up that much more by disappearing.

Then my 94-year-old grandmother showed up, and it became clear to me that I was made to be terminally ill so that I could usher her over to the other side, which gave me a lot of comfort , even though she's a fucking bitch.

I seem to have death on the brain lately, and I'm not sure why. I keep expecting that these ruminations and fantasies will change the way I live, making me kinder and more loving and more appreciative, lighting a fire under my ass to get that novel written, turning me into a seizer of days.

But in practice, it's business as usual. I still snap at my kids and bitch at my husband. I still waste time. Fear is still the boss of me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

not sure why I had to get this off my chest

I hate pubic hairs. Not pubic hair--I don't mind the bush--but pubic hairs: the loose, individual hairs that leave the body in order to bother me. Of course I hate the strange ones--like hanging off the rim of a public toilet! I'm getting a little queasy just thinking about it--but even my husband's. Even my own! Not that I'd expect anyone to be happy to come across one of those fellas (whoever it belonged to), but I don't think many people are as disturbed by them as I am. Look, we all have our hang-ups.

And because I am an expert at self-torment, I seem to have an eye for them. I find them everywhere. And then I must make them go away. If I see one in the bed or on the floor, I have to put it in the trash. (Stupiddaddy just ignores it. That he can continue on with his day knowing there is a pubic hair right at his feet astounds me.) I will even grab some toilet paper and nudge a stranger's straggler into the toilet at a restaurant.

When I was in college, my very first real boyfriend had me over for dinner at his off-campus apartment. The whole time we were eating, all I could think about was the pubic hair that was resting on the table we were eating at. Did he see it too? Was it his, or one of his roommates'? Should I just brush it away, or would that make things even more awkward?

It was very early in the relationship.

Once, as a "practical joke," Stupiddaddy put a pubic hair on my toothbrush. Boy was I surprised when I got ready to brush my teeth that night! Ha ha.

And once, when I was folding laundry, I found a pubic hair caught in the weave of one of Lilah's little pink and white striped socks.

That was really hard for me too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I voted today

And you know what? Even though I'm pessimistic and cynical about pretty much everything, including politics, and including, at this point, even this particular election, it still felt great. Election Days just do that to me.

I loved going into the polls, and seeing other people come and go; the gravity of the process overwhelmed me. Every time I came across somebody proudly wearing one of those thumbnail-size "I voted" stickers--especially the folks who didn't mind it on a dress shirt, or the lapel of a fancy suit--I got chills. I slapped my sticker across my shirt and wore it proudly, too, until it fell off five minutes later.

I got chills, too, seeing people on street corners holding up placards for their candidates, even when it was the wrong a different candidate, but especially when it was my guy. I am absolutely not the type of person who does the friendly toot-toot-toot of her horn and thumbs up salute, but I couldn't help myself. When I saw the Obama team, I toot-toot-tooted my horn, I gave the thumbs up, I waved happily.

And while I wish this nomination had been sealed up long ago, it's nice to know my vote--the votes of all North Carolinians (even the disenfranchised--my god, 38% voter turnout in my county) mattered, though I am a little tired of fielding phone calls from everyone in the Clinton family.

So, for all its many flaws, woohoo! for democracy.

Friday, May 2, 2008


This afternoon, I had to buy a gift certificate for a bat mitzvah we're going to tomorrow. I was planning to get it at Target, but my husband, who apparently has his finger on the pulse of today's youth, told me that was a stupid idea and suggested I go to Abercrombie & Fitch instead.

Dutiful wife that I am, that's what I did. Holy shit! That place is evil. Never mind that the lighting is so low that you can't see the merchandise. Never mind that the music was playing so loud the salesperson--some asshole dude who I know was thinking he was so cool for working there--kept saying to me, "What was that?"

All that annoyance just means I'm an old lady. The thing that really chapped my ass is that they're selling a tee-shirt that says, "Eat, Drink, Be Blonde." I mean, seriously: WTF? How is that okay? That tee-shirt right there represents so much of what's wrong with this country.

But the thing is, I didn't leave the store when I saw that. I stayed, and I bought the gift certificate--partly because I didn't have a lot of time and had to get something right then, and partly because I thought my boycotting wasn't going to make a lick of difference. Which is the worst line of thinking, right? Why vote? Why recycle?

I'm guilting my brunette self to death over this one, not even kidding. I should have walked.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

travel plans

My brother is getting married to an Israeli woman, in Israel, next month. It's going to be a small wedding by Israeli standards, meaning she invited something shy of the entire country and on his side, not many can travel overseas for a wedding, especially on short notice.

But we can (thanks to my mom's generous offer to foot the travel bill)! We're going! As excited as I am to be there, I'm already worrying about how the hell we're going to get through a 12-hour flight with a 2-, 4-, and 6-year old. We could take up all our carry-on space with brand new toys and other distractions, but even that would only buy us a couple of hours. Not unlike most little people, my kids like to move their bodies. If only they made Children's Ambien.... Maybe if we cut a regular Ambien into thirds and dipped the pieces in sugar? Ghetto Children's Ambien; could work.

I'm also worried about the plane crashing into the ocean, which maybe doesn't come as a surprise, but the truth is, despite all my many neuroses, I never had any fear of flying until I had kids. Now all I can think about is looking over at Stupid Daddy as the plane plummets, and thinking, Oh crap, we never got to--

On the plus side, the flight would be a lot shorter.