Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Motherhood: Aging

What a pretty girl
the adults told me
what a smart girl
they said
their tongues honey’d
their eyes far-flung.

What I wish they’d done
was held me up to a mirror
and touched my face
and told me to get used to this sight
these curves and planes
the only thing I trust

and even it will eventually betray me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

On Motherhood: Milk & Ink is here!

After months of diligent writing, reading, editing and listing, our book has been published and is available for purchase.

Approaching the authors and compiling work, reading through and deciding, then editing – the whole process was thrilling and overwhelming and exciting and wonderful, but we wound up with some of the best writing from women across the world, in all different ages and experiences. The work is edgy and honest and important – it covers topics from Asperger’s Syndrome to the death of a child to the first days as a new mother.

Check out the official announcement at here

Once you've checked out the website, you can order the book via Amazon here

Proceeds from book sales go to the charity Mama Hope

Thank you in advance for your support - whether you buy the book for yourself, gifts for friends and/or family, or just tell others about Milk & Ink, we appreciate you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the music of motherhood

The drive home from a weekend in the Smokey Mountains yesterday was ideal: an empty blue bowl of sky, windows full of wind, an unspooling ribbon of road ahead of us. D was in the backseat, playing Kung Fu Panda on his V-Tech handheld, singing along to "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon when the thought struck me that he will recall moments like this - cool air, car packed with Lightning McQueen and black leather overnight bags, a tattered turquoise tote brimming with books, folders, and my little laptop - and remember music by Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam and Eminem and associate that music with me the way I hear the Mamas and the Papas, Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Charlie Pride and think of my childhood, my father; I hear Elvis and immediately remember my mother's brown curls (only later did they brighten to blonde) and hear her singing "Blue Christmas" in a high warble as the days slid toward Christmas.

Music draws memory, tapping the surface of our mind and pulling up thoughts like sunken debris from the sandy floor of the sea, sometimes glittering and bright, sometimes crusted and closed with age and denial.

I hope the memories, the round full thoughts of me, my son has when he hears a certain "oldie" when he's a young man are bright, whole, and fill him with love and longing the way a string of excellent lyrics can, the swell of a hearty guitar riff.

I hope when he hears "Use Somebody," some 20 years from now, he sees sunshine in my red hair as it lifts and dances across my shoulders, flicking into my mouth, wide and open in song, palms thumping on the steering wheel, and turning to grin to him, to tap his knee in time to the song, to clasp his small pudgy hand in my own and say to him "I love you. So, so much."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Short fiction: "Stella Tells the Truth"

Art courtesy of

When my sister graduated from college she moved right away all the way to California cause her boyfriend lived there. When she lived in California none of us talked about it. Daddy missed her an awful lot. He said it felt like someone had dimmed the lights. I may have been only nine but I sure know what he meant. He meant everythin wasn’t as fun as before, cause she lit everything up like a candle or a nightlight.

She left right after she graduated, and people always asked how is Phae and what's she studyin and we heard she Moved Away. Daddy’d just say she’s gone on out to California to live, she’s doin real well now, and how are you?

It was just awful sometimes with her gone. She’d go for days and days and not call, when Mama and Daddy were so used to talkin to her just about every day when she was in college. She was real good in college, she brought home great grades that made Daddy real proud, and Sissy still says to herself sometimes she doesn’t now how Phaedra did it, kept up such great grades and partyin all the time like she knew Phaedra did. Phaedra didn’t visit as much durin college as Sissy does, but when she did come home she was fussed over like you just don’t know. She was always real busy when she come home, always runnin here and there, visitin folks, her family and such. She was real popular.

She lived in California for years and years, and she could only visit on big Holidays but never Christmas. She wasn’t home for three Christmases, I counted. Everybody counted. She’d come home for Thanksgiving, but Christmas she had to spend with Jaacob out in California cause she didn’t want him to be alone on Christmas. His folks didn’t go out to see him. She said she couldn’t leave him alone like that.

Then one day Daddy called Mama at work and said Phaedra’s comin home. Mama came home and tole me and I just about burst with happiness. I was so happy I picked up Jasper and kissed her right on the mouth, even though she’s just a ole dog. Jasper was real happy too, and we danced around while Mama called and made some rangements. Her and Daddy would fly on out to California and just move Phaedra right on back home where she belonged.

I didn’t ask but I knew it was cause she and Jaacob had broken up again. They broke up lots of times, but I was accidentally on the phone this last time when Phaedra called Mama and was cryin, which just about broke my heart. I cried too, and hugged Jasper tight cause Phaedra’s voice didn’t sound right. She was cryin, but her voice was real calm and real still like when Miss Eileen reads somethin out loud she done read five times, but someone still don’t understand.

He’s already seeing someone else Kay, the flat Phaedra voice said. I knew I wasn’t sposed to be on the phone, so I snuggled down deeper neath my blankets. Freddy Teddy was lookin at me, and I put one finger over my mouth to show him be quiet.

Mama tole Phaedra there’s no sense in dwellin on it, to not worry bout him no more and try to keep goin. She said she knows it’s hard, specially after lovin for so long and movin so far for him. This was bout six weeks before Mama tole me Phaedra was movin on back home. I know cause we’d just gotten our report cards, and I got it again when she was back. I’d wanted her to look at it cause I got all A’s, like her, but she had been in bed for a coupla days and wouldn’t talk to no one but her skinny ole dog.

She wouldn’t even talk to Daddy hardly after she took to her bed, when she first come home. Sometimes I’d gather up some supper before I made my own plate, and I’d carry it on tiptoe to her room and knock real quiet on the door. Phae? I’d call real quiet. Phae you there? You hear me?

There wouldn’t be no sound atall, and I’d just leave the tray there and tiptoe off. Sometimes the next mornin the food’d be gone, and Mama’d go in there before she went to work and get the tray. Most times it’d just sit there though, and Phaedra was real skinny when she’d let me sneak in and lay with her under the covers. She only let me do that twice, I counted. I’m real quiet, but those times I’d be sittin outside her door, doin my homework, and she’d open the door just a crack and hiss at me like ole Miss Haber’s cat.

I jumped and stared at her with my mouth hung open. She looked somethin awful, with these big rings round her eyes and stringy hair. Which is a shame cause she got real pretty hair. But there she was, starin at me, and hissin for me to come in her room.

She slid neath those covers real easy like she might break somethin. She moved around like ole Miss Haber too, real stiff and lookin like she hurt all over. I had the flu once and I hurt all over and I moved like that. She held the edge of the blanket up so I could slip in beside her.

Her body was so hot. I curled up against her and started sweatin right off. And I could feel her bones through her pajamas, her body was long and hot. She started cryin, and she pushed her face against my neck and just cried and cried. I wondered was this what she did all the time here in her bed, just cry? Won’t she feel better iffen she talks about it?

There’s nothing to talk about, she said, and her words were thick with hurt. I started cryin too, just knowin how bad she hurt. I had always liked Jaacob, ‘cept when he made her cry like this. He’d always been real nice to me, brought me candy and stuff. I never did listen to the things Daddy’d say bout him, cause I knew if Phaedra loved him so much there had to be some good in him.

I asked her, under the covers, what had happened. Had he found another girlfriend he liked better or somethin? I was sweatin a lot now, but I was just so happy to actually see her. Even though she was livin neath the same roof, sometimes I felt like she was just a ghost passin through the house at night, cause that’s the only time she’d ever come out, iffen everyone was asleep and the house was quiet. But I asked her how he could ever find anyone prettier than her.

It wasn’t that simple, she tole me, and I remembered that word from my vocabulary list. Simple. Easy. And it wasn’t just him that was botherin her, there was other stuff. She owed a lot of money, she said, and she didn’t know how to pay it back. They took her car. They took her car.

Who took your car? I asked her but she was cryin again, and so I just hugged and hugged her, and let her cry all over me till Mama called me on to supper.

Mama who took Phae’s car? I asked Mama in the kitchen.

Mama looked over at me. Who told you that? Where you been? Her eyes looked up toward where Phae’s room is upstairs.

Some people took her car in California cause she couldn’t pay for it anymore, Stella. That’s what happens sometimes when you can’t pay for something anymore, the people you’re paying for it come and take it away.

It’s called Repossession, Daddy told me. I thought that word sounded like somethin out the Bible. He handed me a plate. But that doesn’t make Phaedra a bad person, Daddy said. These things happen.

I heard Daddy tell lots of people that. People came round to see Phae when she first moved home, and for a little while she’d come out to visit. Then one day she just took to her bed and wouldn’t come out.

It was after she’d been at her momma’s for a few days and she came home walkin like she was underwater and just sat right down in Daddy’s lap and started cryin like a baby. And her nearly 23 years old. Daddy got it out of her that Jaacob was getting married.

Mama was mad as fire. She thought about just getting on the phone right then and callin him and –

But Phaedra cried no no no no no. I started shakin then and cryin too, cause she just looked so pitiful all piled up in Daddy’s lap and I wasn’t one bit jealous. She said she was glad for him, real glad that Jaacob’s happy, but it just hurt her so that she’d dated him for all those years and he didn’t want to marry her, but he takes up with this (she said the B word here) and all the sudden he’s getting married. It just made her feel so useless, so wretched. (I looked this word up in the Webster’s Dictionary at school and it means miserable and heartbroken. I’ve added it to my personal vocabulary list and have used it five times already.)

I crawled over to her dangling feet and hugged her round the knees. I tole her she wasn’t wretched at all, that she was lovely.

This was when she took to her bed, and that lasted about a week. She drank a lot of vodka during that time too. There were empty sticky glasses all over her room and some under her bed. I’d sneak in when she was asleep and get the glasses and put them in the dishwasher so Mama and Daddy wouldn’t see them. I know to rinse them out first. One time when I was gatherin all those sticky glasses up Phaedra woke up and saw me. I think she thought she was dreamin cause she started talkin real quiet, in a whisper that sounded to me like when babies can’t talk right yet, and they babble all the time.

Jus once I wish you knew how I felt, she said real quiet, and I knew she wasn’t talkin to me but to someone, probly Jaacob, that only she could see. Jus once I wish you knew how hard it was to be the person you thought I should be. But I couldn't. In the end I couldn't and you didn't want the real me, love the real me. And now I don't know who that is or was.

And then she got out of bed one day and she started writin. It got to where she wouldn't eat and would hardly sleep, and she was always scribblin like mad on her big notebook or typin away at Daddy’s computer. She’d type for hours, squintin at the screen, cryin sometimes and sometimes laughin out loud while tears ran down her face in black streaks into the corners of her mouth. This all scared me a little, cause I’d watch TV with her in the library and see her laughin out loud when nothin funny had happened on the TV. But she wasn’t watchin TV, she was writing.

She wrote and wrote, hours and hours, but sometimes she’d stop to help me with my homework. I asked her one day what she was doin, and she said Fulfilling Prophecy. I said What? That’s when she looked at me right in the eye and I swear, I didn’t know who she was almost.

I’m writing, she said. I’m a writer, that’s what I do. I have a degree in Creative Writing.

You’re a writer? I asked cause my math had been distractin me.

She looked real mad at that. She pushed some stuff around the desk and found a little card that had her name on it, her phone number and the word Writer. I looked from it to her. See? She asked me real hot, her face red now. See that? I’m a writer. And you never knew, she said to me in a voice like Jasper when she doesn’t want to play dress-up any more. You never knew you never knew.

After that I was kinda scared of her and wouldn’t watch TV with her while she was at the computer. She wrote for what seemed like years, then she started lookin all around for an Agent. She had this real thick stack of papers she kept mailin off to people, and most times they sent her a real thin letter and she’d either cry or get real mad and scream at everybody. She said she was smothering and she hated us all. She kicked Jasper one time then started cryin. I was getting real tired of her cryin and everyone else was too when she got a letter one day with a check and then she started screamin for real.

Things got lots better after that day. Phaedra said the check was an advance toward the rest of her book and she sent it right away off to pay for the car they took away from her. I don’t know why she had to pay for that car when it ain’t even hers any more, but I don’t ask questions bout stuff I don’t care to understand anyway. Anybody who’d take a car away from Phae, who’d take anything away from her, doesn’t know her anyway or they’d feel just awful to hurt her like that.

She flew off to New York City one day even though Mama begged and begged her not to after September eleventh. Phaedra said no terrorist was gonna keep her from realizin her dream. She had bigger fish to fry than some sorry ole Bin Laden. I was so afraid for her that I cried real hard when we watched her plane take off, headin up north to New York where it all happened. Daddy kept watchin the news and called her twice a day.

She stayed almost two weeks, but her hotel room was paid for by the people buyin her book. She had a real good time, and she brought me some neat toys and some matches from places she went to eat at. I like to roll the names of the restaurants around in my mouth and imagine how fancy they are compared to their names: The Russian Tea Room, The Plaza, The Moroccan Suite, Denial.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Head down, I had just turned the corner from Rue Marchetonto onto Route de Castelsarrasin with MIKA’s “Lollipop” blaring in my ears when I saw the blood.

I stopped, nearly stumbling, and glanced ahead. Against the morning glaring sun the rest of our group continued up the hill, toward the clock tower. I looked back down where, a few steps later, the dark red spots splattered against the ancient rock wall, curving up the hill toward the heart of Auvillar. The trail continued, weaving from the wall on my left onto the curb on my right until, almost at the next corner, it exploded in a violent bloom on the wall of a corner house.

I plucked the earbud out and squinted up at the receding backs of the other poets, frowned at the wall. Three white tissues heavy with drying blood led me to the corner of the street, where another firework explosion of blood, brighter red here, stained the street and trailed in droplets to the door of the corner house.

Sunlight hot and insistent in my hair, I nudged another tissue, this one soaked nearly brown and heavy in the gutter, with the toe of my flip flop. Glancing up, I saw John had paused, his profile sharp against the sky a blue only to be found in Southern France, waiting for me. He lifted his hand, and I tripped on up the hill.

In our poetry workshop that day I didn't write about blood, but about my thoughts sifting on the breeze along the banks of the Garonne, Drifting white puffs that catch in window screens across the French countryside:

"Walking to the water"

At first I feared my thoughts had fled –

white puffs on air

wafting over water.

Glancing about, I saw my dreams,

these white floating sifting things,

and fought the urge to catch them

pluck them off the breeze,

this need to gather

my ideas of air.

But no, Darren says,

it’s cottonwood seed.

French farmers cut it down,

it gets caught in screens,

angers their wives.

I worried my thoughts would weave

into window screens

splayed for a French wife

to frown at and complain

My dreams and ideas

spun out cotton

spread thin

for the world to run through their fingers.

We never found out where the blood came from - or who it came from. The next day it had been scrubbed away, so we made up our own stories about it, discussed, dissected, wondered, our conversations wafting out from the patio of our gite, bubbling into the night air and mingling with the songs of French frogs, dissolving into summer: mid May in Auvillar.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pen and Palette: (Authors') Dutch Lunch in Nashville

A great blog about a very special lunch I was lucky enough to attend yesterday - what a fabulous time with some talented people!

Pen and Palette: (Authors') Dutch Lunch in Nashville

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Mayhem: Roses of Auvillar, a poem

Auvillar, France is smothered in roses. They are everywhere, which for someone who adores flowers as much as I do is heavenly. The scent, the sudden bursts of multi-faceted color, and the silk of their petals against my skin like a kiss.

While sifting through some writing materials last night I found a notepad used to jot down images, thoughts, and sensory input as prescribed by our poetry workshop leader, Marilyn Kallet.

The following poem were scribbled hastily, and I suspect while walking uphill back into Auvillar Old Town.

Crushed rose petals
On cobblestones worn
by parading pilgrim feet
sun no shade
Sunday afternoon, late, in Auvillar

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On Media: A book review of Dying Light by D. Scott Meek

Let’s face it: you can’t swing a bat without hitting a book about vampires these days.

They’re everywhere – vampires glittering and sulking, staking and loving and enduring their forever lives. But in Dying Light by D. Scott Meek, vampires are doing something quite original and captivating: they are living among us humans side by side, working, healing, moving day by day in a future that is bleak and uncertain.

Meek’s vampires – a lot cursed by a viral epidemic that swept the Earth centuries before – walk among mortals blue-eyed and stealthy, working side by side in hospitals and offices in what was once the nation’s Capital and is now a den of corruption and rubble from wars of the distant past.

Meek’s writing style is immediately accessible, his characters sympathetic and interesting – especially the vampires, who are more fleshed out here than the mortals. These are vampires to take notice of, full of rage and loneliness and sadness and sexual deviancy. Their blues aren’t the only way they stand out in a crowd.

And such as in other vampire tales in Dying Light there is a battle, but it, again, is not your typical blood-thirsty war – it doesn’t suck. This psychological thriller - this puzzle of who is really on who’s side, who wants to change and who wants to die - is more of a puzzle to unravel slowly (and flip back pages to search, hungrily, for clues) and follow to its climax… which may or may not involve a certain, very interesting, chair.

For an intelligent take on a vamp tale take on Meek’s Dying Light. And keep at least one light burning through the night.

Friday, July 9, 2010

On Motherhood: To moo or not to moo

The sign on the door read: Pick up 3 items to dress like a cow and get FREE food at Chik-Fil-A! Wear a hat: get a free sandwich - Entire outfit: free COMBO!

"Cool," I said, and opened the door.

I signed The Dude out of day camp and picked up a cardboard cow hat, half of what looked like a sandwich board scrawled with "Eat Mor Chikin" and a slick of stickers. One of the camp counselors explained that the stickers could go on a T-shirt, and all together The Dude would get a free meal the next day, the same day the whole camp would spend at Pump It Up, a facility in Mt. Juliet filled with those huge inflatables for bouncing, jarring teeth, stepping on body extremities and eventual vomiting, in my experience.

"So," I said, herding him into the car, "tomorrow you dress like a cow and bounce around in overpriced rubber apparatus, that about right?"

"Sounds right," he agreed.

Unsure of anything related to the clothing or costuming of small children, I called my stepmother to see where to buy plain white T shirts. Turns out they are sold by the pack at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

$50 later, we get the shirts and head home. This morning I lay out a plain white Hanes T and D gets to work with the stickers. We decorate a hat, we paste black stickers on his shorts. He is all cow'd up, mooing all the way to camp.

When we pull up to the building, we see a girl in the obligatory bright yellow T shirt of Field Trip day. I frown. Glancing in the mirror, I see D is frowning. I get out of the car, round the trunk, eyeing the window. More yellow-clad kids. I curse beneath my breath.

D hops out of the car, takes one look at the building and snatches the cow hat off his head, pushes it at me.

"They're wearing yellow," he says.

I swallow. "Yeah. Maybe... maybe we should have packed your field trip shirt as your extra shirt in your backpack."

He tosses a scowl over his shoulder as he climbs the stairs to the front door. "Yeah. Maybe, mom."

Inside is a sea of yellow. My heart thuds, and D walks into the room, awash in the sunshine of field trip shirts, a white beacon in spotted shorts sifting through the kids. Dejectedly, I hang his backpack on the coatrack on one wall.

"Yeah," one counselor says, moving toward me, "they're not actually going to eat at Chik-Fil-A today."

Because this is a church-based camp and school, I reign myself in. "Then why did the note say for him to dress like a cow?"

D, his back glaring white among his yellow friends, casts another look over his shoulder which, if they could kill, would have nailed him for matricide.

"Some of the parents thought that," the dewy-faced counselor said.

I bare my teeth at her. "And yet none of the other kids are dressed like a cow."

"I know," she showed me her braces. "It was a misunderstanding."

I squeezed the bridge of my nose between two fingers, glad to have job where it's okay to have these things happen: I can drive the 20 minutes back home, grab the yellow field trip shirt and pack a lunch, and drive the 20 minutes back and hopefully be back in time to catch them before they leave for the field trip.

When I return, with literally minutes to spare, D is on the playground, his white T shirt filthy and missing its bovine black spots. I offer the Marvel Comics 3D lunch bag and yellow shirt, which he refuses to take.

I lean toward him, ignoring the camp counselor who has accompanied him to the playground gate. "You want to change now, sweetie? You can just change and I'll -"

"No," he says firmly without meeting my eye. "Later."

I shrug and back away. "Okay... well then, have a good day, sorry about the cow thing."

He raises his face and moos at me. "From the only cow in the yard," he says, smiles, and runs away.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I know a girl
who spends all day Sunday praying. All day, I repeat. Yes, all day, she says. In meetin all day, we pray. I can’t think of what to say to that. I wonder what she prays about. I blink at her. All day, you meet and you pray. She nods, and I wonder what she has lost to make her pray that way. And in the black without reaching or breathing or knowing I let you go.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Auvillar: Introduction

Monday night I returned to Tennessee from a 10-day stay in France, and while I had an amazing time (physical traveling including planes and trains – yikes!) I was very, very glad to be home. I was especially glad to return to Mt. Juliet: I missed my friends and co-workers, the people who surround and lift me daily, to whom I turn and confide.

I was startled and surprised to find that the people in France, especially in Paris, were very friendly and helpful: from the Delta employees at the Charles de Gaulle airport to waiters in Paris and people in Metro (subway) tunnels, almost everyone was willing to assist a fumbling American struggling with rushing crowds and a very tentative grasp on the French language. There is a stereotype, I think, that Americans have about the French: there were many “frog” and smelly Frenchmen jokes posted on Facebook and in emails to me, but the truth is (and thanks to the Eyewitness Travel France guidebook for the tip) if you smile, say “Bonjour!” and are friendly immediately when you approach someone, 90 percent of the time that person will smile and help. Or at least try. Because French doesn’t sound nearly so lovely (or coherent) when it’s tainted by a Tennessee twang.

One major thing I learned while in France is tolerance: not being able to communicate with everyone around you because you can’t speak their language (in their home country) is frustrating and at times quite scary. While I agree that if a person is going to move to a different country they should at least try to learn the native tongue, those visiting should be treated with patience and kindness. As a tired but persistent to see the sights, non-French speaking American who was treated almost consistently with patience and kindness, I now know that sort of karma can come back to you both ways.

Something else I learned while away is that it is self-indulgent and easy to take your friends and family for granted, especially those you see on a regular basis. I missed my family terribly, but I also missed my friends and coworkers. I was flung out into the world, away from my support system and comfort zone, and while it became less difficult every day I still struggled. I couldn’t think about my 4-year old son for more than a moment without my throat closing up, and I found myself constantly wanting to call or text my friends to describe the slant of light on the roses of Auvillar or the cute Parisian couple with no regards to the restraints of public displays of affection.

But most importantly, I learned that I am stronger than I thought. I traveled internationally (flying stand-by at that) by myself, and while it was definitely scary (the TGV European train system takes some study and swift feet) traipsing through airports and gasping at the Eiffel Tower sparkling like lit jewels in the black Parisian sky on my own was liberating and fulfilling. I am resilient and adaptable and calm in stressful situations. I learned a lot about travel and French culture (and wine and cheese and bread, oh my!), but I also learned a lot about myself. I learned to slow down, and listen, and breathe. I learned to linger with the sun in my hair instead of cursing that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I learned to live, not just make it through each day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On Motherhood: SpongeBob & Burger King - full circle

Editor's Note: This is an old blog from my Myspace days. (Don't snicker, there was social media obsessive distraction before Facebook.) I was cruising through my old blogs, and I thought it'd be interesting to see what I was blogging about this at time two or three years ago.

In April of 2007 Draper was 18 months old and I was still working for the State of TN. I was miserable there by the end, and I started at The Chronicle just two months after I wrote this blog. This one doesn't talk much about how much I hated that job by the end - that subject is reserved for the blog before this one, and it is cratered with the blasts of F bombs. This one's better, I think, and funny and relevant because, lo and behold, SpongeBob is back at Burger King now, and Draper already has three of the watches. And his language and vocabulary skills are much, much better now (god help us all).

While at the beach just a few months after the blog below was written, in between the State job and starting at The Chronicle.

April 17, 2007
Burger King is corruptive
Current mood: amused
Category: Life

There's this new TV commerical that promotes a new line of Sponge Bob Square Pants toys at Burger King. My son, 18 months, is obsessed with Sponge Bob right now, even though, to my knowledge, he has never seen the show. Thinking it was bright and colorful (and cheap - I mean, why buy clothes for a toddler who doesn't know how badly pizza and mustard stain clothes?), my mother bought him a SB T-shirt which, given the chance, Draper will wear every day. Thus followed a SB doll and pillow case, which must be in his crib before he will enter it.

The commercial begins with two kids exclaiming the fact that SB is now at Burger King. A mother and father are in the bathroom when this announcement is made, and the dad is in the bathtub, fondling a large yellow (somewhat realistic) sea sponge. The dad stands up and asks, "Honey, who am I?"

Of course she stares at him, incredulous, wondering why the hell she married this goof who takes baths in the first place.

He puts the sponge on his head and stands up, covered, conveniently, in bubbles. "Sponge Bob no pants," he cries.

Draper turned from the TV and looked at me. "Mama."

I raised my eyebrows.


I shook my head. "No."

He walked toward me, palms up. "Mama. Bob-bob."

I sighed. "No, Drape."

He touched my knee. "Mama. Bob-bob no paz."

I put down my magazine. "Draper. It's an ad."

Draper cocked his head and gave me a look that mirrors my own when I'm dealing with someone who simply doesn't see things my way. "Mama. Bob-bob no paz."

Note to self: boycott Burger King.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On Mayhem: Getting Dumped

I was minding my own business: I was asleep, actually. Sound asleep. The kind of asleep that covers you more completely than your own blanket, that coaxes you deep down into a dark you weren't even aware you had in you.

But still, I dream. I almost always dream. And last night I was dreaming about glaciers cracking, huge great white/blue chunks of glowing ice floating, breaking apart with a resonating crack I could feel in my bones, crunch between my teeth.

Then I was sliding, having lost my footing atop the glacier, slipping, struggling to find a hold, anything, scrambling. I began to slip, to dangle, white rushing water filling the cracks of the splitting iceberg, rising as I slid, shaved ice shoved beneath my fingernails as I scrabbled for hold.

Just as sometimes we dream of falling and jerk awake just before we hit the ground (for me those dreams often involve someone's front porch, peeling white floorboards, and falling down the steps, I don't know the origin of that recurring image and am afraid to ask), I awoke to a startled cry, jerking myself awake just as I actually hit the floor. Blinking, I looked up to see Whitman, my chubby little Maltese puppy, blinking sleepily down at me from the narrow antique bed in our playroom.

I sat up, only to knock my head against the underside of the tanning bed we use to fold/store clean clothes and blankets. I realized that the startled cry had come from me, and that I had slipped out of the bed - but had I jerked so hard from a falling dream (what had I been dreaming about again? and why was I so cold?)that I had jerked myself right out of bed? Even for me, that's one hell of a dream.

Rubbing my forehead I struggled to my knees and turned to look at the bed. Through the dim I saw that a corner of the head of the bed had... fallen. The bed sank at one corner, inexplicably. I crawled forward and touched the underside of the bed frame - so old that even my mother doesn't know its true age, and I have no memories of my childhood home where this bed was not prominently displayed in what my mother called "the antique room."

Puzzled, I gingerly ran my hands along the frame, fearing splinters but feeling nothing. I patted around on the floor for my glasses (I don't know why, I always place them on the bedside table and they wouldn't be on the floor, but I was still half asleep and dazed and didn't think I would be on the floor, either). I am legally blind, meaning that without my glasses or contacts the world is a fuzzy mess of dull colors and shifting blobs. I have become familiar enough in the house to make very simple trips without ocular aid (from my bed to my attached bathroom in my bedroom, from my bed to the kitchen for the big white blob that is the constant gallon of milk in the fridge, an almost nightly pilgrimage for me) but with the scattered throw pillows, the tangle of blanket and Whitman whining, still aloft on the bed above me, I wasn't comfortable enough to access the situation without my glasses. They were nowhere to be found. (I found them in the morning light right on the table, where I had placed them, on top of one of my grandmother's Bibles.)

I gave up on the investigation of the broken bed (what had I been doing in my sleep?) and decided to try sleeping on the couch, near the bed. (Why doesn't she just go to her bedroom, you may be asking yourself, and that is a fair question. I didn't go to my bedroom, and my own bed, because there were no sheets on my bed. I had stripped them that morning to be washed and hadn't put any more on yet. I was distracted by supper and then American Idol. I'm easily distracted.)

The couch, while comfortable enough for sitting, is hell to sleep on. It is old, worn, sinks in the middle and has a sucking quality which, if you're not careful, will cause you to wake up with one arm tangled among the coiled springs of the ancient monster. After padding the couch with every available pillow and getting Whitman settled back into his sleeping spot behind my curled knees, I tossed and turned for approximately 1,400 hours. Agony. I chased sleep, scrambling on its heels, for what felt like forever. (It was most likely about 20 minutes.)

Finally I gave up on the couch and decided to try the bed - only this time I'd outsmart it. (Keep in mind, this is at around 3 a.m. No one is at their logical best at 3 a.m.) I would sleep with my head at the foot of the bed. HA! Take that, collapsing bed!

This, of course, was something like trying to sleep while sliding down an incline: I found myself holding on to the footboard in my dozy haze, trying to keep from sliding down to the foot of the bed, where half the mattress was now nearly on the floor. I woke up from a light doze once with my arms flung over the footboard, my elbows hooked, basically holding on in my sleep, with Whitman curled around the top of my head to keep from sliding onto the floor.

I raised up and looked at him, nose to nose.

"This isn't working," I told him. I could swear he rolled his eyes.

So I picked up my puppy, my pillow, my blanket and my phone and we trooped to the other end of the house (me feeling the way along walls and bumping into chairs and other random obstacles along the way) to my bedroom, where I flopped onto my bed, never more grateful for it, sheets or no sheets.

This morning I tried to explain what happened in the night to The Dude, who stood at the doorway to the playroom, looking down at the broken bed, which I had already made back up.

"It looks fine to me," he said skeptically, scratching at his thigh clad in Spiderman pajama pants. He glanced at me. "Are you all right?"

"No I'm not all right! I had to hang on for dear life, and it was cold!"

He shut the door, shaking his head.

"It's time for my breakfast, Mom."

I dropped the gallon of milk on the kitchen counter and looked at him. "I don't think you appreciate the gravity of the situation."

He frowned and sat on the edge of the little blue rocking recliner we keep in the kitchen. "The what?"

"The gravity of the situation."

He nodded. "Isn't that... what holds stuff down? Gravity?"

I blinked.

"That's funny," he smiled up at me. "That's what holds stuff down and made you fall out of bed. Gravity." He chuckled.

"You're hilarious," I told him, turning so he coudln't see me smile. "Now what do you want for breakfast?"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Don't get me wrong: I love Middle Tennessee. I love the gorgeous hills,

I love the people,

And, normally, I love the weather. Very temperate, and we have actual seasons, unlike when I lived in South Florida and it was just hot all the damn time.

But here's the thing about Middle Tennessee people and weather: we can't handle snow. Especially when you combine snow and ice. Snow and ice and schools. We close school if someone is overheard in a grocery store aisle saying that it was icy and there was light snow when they visited Aunt Marsha in Minnesota last week. BECAUSE IT MIGHT COME HERE! THE WEATHER MIGHT DRIFT HERE AND IT MIGHT SNOW AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!

But we don't die. No, we cancel school three days before the "winter event" gets here, we go to the grocery and buy ALL of the milk and ALL of the bread. And maybe some shrimp cocktail and batteries, just in case.

And this happens every time. Every single time. And trust me, I like snow. A lot. I like how everything looks so clean and stark on a snowy morning. And we don't get enough snow here to take it for granted. But the weather people on TV start predicting it days in advance, and so we have to wait and see. And it's all anybody can talk about: the SNOW, when is the SNOW coming, how much will it SNOW, will they cancel school (yes), how many days will we be SNOWED IN? Stranded! Trapped in our homes! Thank God for the shrimp and batteries!

So here's what I propose: calm down, people of Middle Tennessee. Even if it does snow (and we all know that when you discuss it to death, and when the weathermen actually predict it, it rarely happens, we know this) then just don't get out and drive in it unless you have to, because if there's anything worse than Middle Tennesseans freaking out about snow it's them attempting to drive in it. Stay home, curl up with your kids or loved ones or pets, and relax. Spend some time together. Talk to each other. Play games, cook a meal together, watch a movie.

Snow days, I think, are the perfect excuse to do nothing but chill. Seems appropriate, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Motherhood: Sometimes getting fired is the best thing that could happen

So, there goes a New Year Goal (I refuse to call them resolutions, that sounds so... FINAL - "You MUST do this, you made a resolution!") to blog at least a few times a week. Oh well, there's always another chance - that's what I like about days: they just keep coming, and with each morning you have a new chance to start over. Who needs a new year for that? (Hint: I do.)

I have made good on a few of my New Year goals, namely this one: to start writing down some of the stuff The Dude says, because 1. people keep telling me to do it, and 2. he's really, really funny and says surprisingly smart things. He also tells these long, drawn out stories with the greatest facial expressions and hand gestures.

A week or so ago I was talking about someone I know who is about to get fired from her job. I can't remember if I was telling Mom or The Dude about it, but it must have stuck in his head, because this weekend, in one of our marathon movie-watching-and-Connect-4-and-or-Operation-SpongeBob-game sessions, he launched into the following story (and if you know The Dude you can hear his pipey little high-pitched voice, which, consequentially, sounds a lot like mine, with my cadence and lilt):

"So last week when I got fired from my office job I set up an office in my closet. And that's where I write the SpongeBob episodes. Did you know that I write SpongeBob episodes now?"

"I didn't know that. What is an episode?"

"It's one TV show."

I shrugged, dropped a red disk into the Connect 4 grid. "Okay."

"So I set up my office, and that's where I'm writing them. I'm pretty good at it. I've found my talent, and it's writing SpongeBob episodes."

"I'm sure it is." (The talent question came up also during last night's American Idol premiere. Apparently his talent is telling stories, but only until he "really" learns how to write, and then he'll write stories, just like me.) "You've certainly seen enough SpongeBob episodes to be able to have the tone down pat."

On a SpongeBob blanket, wearing SpongeBob shoes, most likely watching SpongeBob with his friend Kendall.

"I do. And sometimes Goose
would come into my office in my closet. He would come down from the ceiling, on ropes, and he would swing down into my closet office and he would write the SpongeBob episodes with me."

"Wow. I had no idea Goose was so athletic and talented."

"He's not. I had to fire him."

From the floor of my bedroom, where Goose himself has slept since Middle Tennessee weather decided to take on the characteristics of Minnesota, Goose grumbled and shifted, stretched.

"I had to fire him because, well, he wasn't that good of a writer."

I leaned over and looked at the dog, who has been known to run, full-speed, into the side of the house. "I can't imagine he has much of an imagination."

"He doesn't. And all he wanted to do was eat all the time. He was always sneaking off into Dah's bathroom to eat Blair's food." The Dude shook his head. "I couldn't trust him."

"Yes, I can see how that would be difficult to deal with and grounds for termination."

"But I think me firing Goose was probably the best thing that could have happened to him," The Dude continued, almost wistfully.

I dropped my final red disk into the Connect 4 grid. He hadn't been paying attention, and four red disks marched proudly in a diagonal line. The Dude glared at me before turning his back on me.

"Well, look at him."

Both of us leaned over the side of the bed and looked at the large copper-colored dog, stretched out over two of the six rugs I'd laid out to try and protect my new carpet from his outside-dog invisible dirt and germs. He snored softly.

"He's just so happy."

We both leaned back, and I released the Connect 4 grid so that the disks fell out of the bottom. The Dude swept them together, began separating out the colors for the next game.

"Of course he is," I said. "He's a dog. What's he got to be worried about?"


"Well yeah, besides that."

"Getting fired."

"Well. Doesn't look like he's losing much sleep over that one."


"Yeah babe."

"Do you worry about getting fired?"

"Not really, no."

"If you did, I'd let you work in my office and write SpongeBob with me. I bet you're better than at than I am."

"I'm sure I would be."



"I might be better. Just let me win every once in a while."

I frowned. "Win at what? At writing or Connect 4?"

"Connect 4."

"We've had this conversation. I will not let you win. You will learn how to play and then you'll win on your own and it'll feel so much better when you do."

He dropped a yellow disk into the grid, a bit dejectedly.

"It was a lot easier working with Goose."