Archive for the ‘Ponderosa’ Category

Valley Delusions…

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Recently, during those torrential, late-winter rainstorms, the police visited our mini-Ponderosa.

To clarify: we moved from busy NoHo to the wilds of uber-quiet suburbia. We were used to sirens and overhead helicopter traffic and muffler-less motorcycles speeding down our street at 3:00a.m. We were used to a lack of parking and doors-banging neighbors who think like this: it’s a GREAT idea to bring a rooster home to live in my kitchen and to leave all my kitchen windows open so that when my feathered friend crows at 5:00a.m., an angry mob bangs on my door, which I don’t answer because I wear earplugs and have a white noise machine because I brought a rooster home to live in my kitchen and everyone knows roosters are noisy buggers, ha, ha!


We relocated from NoHo excitement to silent, leafy streets offering plenty of parking and a sweet house flanked by kindly types who offered up their lawn mowers when ours broke down because we ran it over a partially submerged-in-earth tree stump, and why wouldn’t we run over a partially-submerged-in-earth tree stump with our lawn mower since we’ve never had a lawn (much less a mower) of our own before and are bemused by mowers and gardening power tools and white fly infestations and ants as welcoming committees and lunatic mocking birds dive-bombing our cats and the frequent raking of leaves and yanking up god-awful growths called weeds and finally understanding yes, yes, gardening gloves are absolutely necessary when pruning roses (a procedure we YouTubed because we’ve never pruned a rose and are still shocked that rose pruning has proper procedure, like nose jobs).

To clarify: the previous inhabitants of our home spray-painted an ultra red Lightning McQueen (cartoon car) on the wall in our back yard. It’s gone now, but during those torrential rains, those mini-monsoons of earlier this year, the mural was still there. Then, one dark afternoon during a break in the weather, as my son cheered for Tinky Winky catching Tubby Toast, I sipped dubious coffee and gazed through the large windows facing the back yard—and I saw something besides old Lightning McQueen.

Truly, the “Cars” empire is one to amaze. They are everywhere.

There, under the retreating blooms of our potato-vine-tree-thing, I saw, in white paint, this:



I called my husband and in an urgent tone told him: ENRIQUE. He immediately called the police. As I waited for them to arrive, I stared gloomily at Lightning McQueen, wondering what he saw last night when the ENRIQUE gang arrived to mercilessly tag our lives—and suddenly I was positive ENRIQUE had taqgged Lightning McQueen, too, adding new colors to the mural, enhancing it, gang-artistes. My eyes scanned the walls of our mini-Ponderosa. I gasped: spray painted on the far left wall, just above the spiky agave, was a white cross I had never seen before in my life.


By the time the police arrived I was also convinced there was tagging on the curb across the street that said: UFO. Great. In addition to the cross-obsessed ENRIQUE gang there was also the notorious UFO gang leaving their mark in our Hood and we were going to have to move because we simply could not raise a child in gang-infested suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, no matter the cute houses and pretty, well-maintained yards. Any second the gun shots were going to start up. I was mentally packing my bags as I let the two policemen in and pointed out the tagging. Their politeness and poker faces fueled my terror. I watched them through the windows as they inspected ENRIQUE and the dreaded cross. It was starting to rain again.

The cops: No, ma’am, it’s not a gang. You’d have to live up in Northridge for gang action. Probably just some kid on a dare. There aren’t any footprints. Could be the rain washed them away, although the ground is kind of protected by that tree thing…Well, I wouldn’t worry, ma’am. Sure, get a dog and keep up your security lighting and always remember that nowhere is safe, but you’re in a nice neighborhood, ma’am. Good looking boy! We’ll be on our way now.

Wait! I begged, unable to process what they were telling me. What about the UFO gang?

The cops exchanged glances of pity and impatience.

The cops: Well, ma’am, If you go right up to the curb, you’ll see the letters aren’t actually UFO, but DWP. Probably someone’s water pipe is right around there and needs fixing.

They loped off to their police car, leather jackets up over their heads for protection from the cloud burst.

After I put T down for his nap, I hauled my computer onto my lap and brought up the before-moving-in and post-excessive-renovation pictures of our Ponderosa.

Oh. My. Sweet. Basil. And. Cow. Crap.

In one particular photo of the yard, one directed at the grave of Mr. Peabody, there, behind the grave, partially obscured by the potato-vine-tree-thing, this: ENRIQUE. Further scouring of the pictures revealed the white cross. There were plenty of photos of Lightning McQueen and as I examined them carefully it was obvious that no tagging enhancement had taken place. No tagger had been in our yard, period. No wonder there weren’t any footprints! I was both relieved and: DOH! DOH! DOH!

Forget out-of-sight-out-of-mind. How about: in-sight-for-nearly-a-year-and-COMPLETELY-NOT-ON-YOUR-RADAR.

Sniff, sniff…

I called my husband and listened to him laugh and laugh. Babe, he gasped between laughter gushy as the rainstorm. Babe, I thought we’d been tagged, too—it wasn’t just you!

Listen, I responded. Listen to me, husband: I made policemen get all wet and muddy for no reason.

Ha, ha! I can’t believe you—I mean we—ha, ha, so funny! I–I can’t breathe. Ha, ha, ha!

My cheeks burned.

I still want a dog, I hissed.

But babe, S laughed. Try and see the humor! Aren’t you glad we haven’t been tagged? It’s all good, babe. And funny as—-

He was laughing so intensely it was necessary for him to hang up.

Until I painted the sucker over!

A few weeks later, when the Ponderosa had dried out somewhat and the sun totally confused blossom-bearing plants with a surprise pre-Spring heatwave, I painted over Lightning McQueen and ENRIQUE. Only the cross remains—until I can get to the paint store and purchase more gloriously white, white, beautifully blanking, utterly erasing gallons.


Mama’s Day, 2010

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Stopping to smell the May roses gone wild…

This year, Mother’s Day started the friday before, around 6:30p.m. From my post at the kitchen sink, scrubbing dried ketchup from T’s food tray, I watched my dearly beloved pull up and extract a huge white cage from the passenger side of the car. I slid back the kitchen window so hard it banged. WHAT DID YOU DO! I shouted quite rudely.

Cat-safe cage hanging!

I’ve had some experiences with birds. More than one wild house finch has required my rescuing services, the last one just a week ago, when I pulled a youngster from Al’s mouth and T and I rushed it to the Wildlife Waystation in Calabasas. One wing was tweaked, I think tweaked before Al’s mouth tasted it, which is why he was able to catch the finch at all, because when you look like THIS, you don’t move very bird-catcher-cat nimbly. Mostly you lie around licking your large pink belly, when you’re an Al.


Back when I was a single woman in Los Feliz, I opened my security gate one morning and there he was, Mr. Peabody, my new love, collapsed on the ground at my feet. I rushed him inside, revived him with drops of tap water on his beak and popped him in a cage I had from saving a wild finch who’s leg had been damaged by a pop-up sprinkler and who I’d nursed back to health. In went Mr. Peabody for 3 or 4 years. He died right before I moved in with my (then fiancee) husband, destroying me. I kept him in a small box in our freezer for two years (yes, creepy shades of “A Rose For Emily”), until we moved here, to the Ponderosa, and I was able to give Mr. P a proper burial in our back yard.


For 2 years my husband couldn’t get over having a dead bird in his freezer—still can’t. He brings it up to friends and colleagues and me, when I mention my missing-of Mr. Peabody…

WHAT DID YOU—oh whatever. Givehimtome, givehimtome, givehimtome now.

Regardless of his whole frozen bird complex, S obviously took to heart how much I miss Mr. Peabody and so he got me Julian for Mother’s Day: a very young, green parakeet I plan on taming and giving free-fly time around here. We’ve hung his cage up extremely high (meaning away from cats) and in a central location, so he can see us coming and going, hear us, hear the TV, the birds outside, can be in on all the wild action in these parts.


Our son calls him “baby bird”, said with a mixture of shock and awe every time he stops and looks up at the cage, which is often. “Baby bird!”


So for once I didn’t save a bird, but was given a bird and it’s such a different feeling. Part of me feels, well, rude: Oh god–another animal to feed, water and worry about, NO NO NO!!! But that panic passes when I watch Julian explore his food bowl by plopping down in it, or tussle with a rock-hard piece of bagel, or when he emits those cheerful chirps and delights my son. I’m glad he’s here. I look forward to coaxing him onto my finger one of these days, when he decides I’m worth trusting.


Welcome to the Ponderosa, baby bird. Just—live a long time, okay? And prosper.

Seriously, though: Thank you.


Blog Break #17,000,000…

Friday, April 30th, 2010

As I experience the flu AND caring for an absolutely non-sick toddler bored with Blues Clues, Thomas, Cars, Little Einsteins and basically any dvd in his collection, bored with puzzles and bubbles indoors and sticking playdough to the walls, I offer this blog break w/picture, taken from my sick chaise-longue in the backyard, where I can be found reclining in sun and wind on the thinning brown mattress, moaning lightly as he digs passionately in the dirt pile.




Monday, April 19th, 2010

Last week I sat deep in a canyon next to a rushing creek. I was amazed by the emotion this busy bit of nature created in me. All was concurrently canyon-serene and utterly riotous. The creek was thunder and Zen, a zealot’s feverish telling and a whisper softer than bee-speak. Mind-tweaking. Very.


I sat on the flat, sun-infused boulder, watching T toss pebbles into thunder-bubbles, into the catchy, incessant water-laugh, water-rage. LodylodylodyROCKINTHEWATER, shouted my son. I glanced downstream: more boulders, domed as lazing turtles, pond-greens, canyon shadow so Chumash, so cave and tearing, water precious, dappled skin stretching into slap and roil and rage.


What were my feelings? Loss and bounty. What were my thoughts? Knots and gold beach. Focused, anyway—funneled. What was my name? My son held it in his little hands, felt it, shook it like dice, tossed it to eternity. His eyes found mine and he laughed.


We held hands and climbed up the trail, back into the sun and poppy fields. When he said, Dadda, I knew we’d both been on the same wavelength. Where else would my mind rush to after experiencing such a roughing up? Home. 75 miles South. T was checking in. I nodded at him.

And we moved amicably on to the beach. Low tide. Sweet shush, shush, shush.



Fits And Starts…

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Must be the March winds—my mind air on the fritz, air exploded, gallavanting without reason, method, or a wristwatch. My new nickname is Fits-And-Starts. Not, Gaps-In-Hair-Weave, or even, Gaps-In-Mind-Weave, but Fits-And-Starts. Or maybe: Fits-And-Starts-And-Fits-And-Starts…

O Lavender!

O March! You’ve usurped May’s darling buds and July’s thuddy heat. You’ve also cleared the air with your winds—scoured the sky—revealing the sort of clarity that makes Southern Californians famous for wearing sunglasses. We protect our eyes from your telescopic quality, your unnerving, dazzling zoom. We avoid mirrors, perhaps work out more, have extra glasses of wine with dinner. We plant poppies and sweet brooms and star jasmine, both giddy and migraine-ish from color-exposure and pervasive scents. We plant lavender and cover our ears when the bees arrive for they, too, are loud and clear, loud and clear. March? Your monster-scope is so bright we become addled, perhaps a little afraid, and wander inside with our sunglasses still on, stepping on cats’ tails, rebounding into chairbacks, shoulder-crashing into refrigerators, scaring or delighting our ever-watchful toddlers. Or we are still—so still—so perfectly, utterly, exquisitely unmoving—sitting well into the patio chairs with their dubiously stuffed, bird crap spattered cushions, staring numbly through our sunglasses at exposed world, our back yards transformed into little March Edens because of all the rain and all of your light on all of that rain’s workings. O March! Your light-abundance numbs, though not unfavorably. Such clarity—the hummingbird a foot from my face, it’s ruby feathers flashing, its angst-hum, its eyes—so not for the fainthearted.

O Freaky March light!

This March I have discovered that despite having no energy around each day’s 3:00p.m. due to T’s consistent 5:00a.m. wakings and ever-shortening naps, despite watching my energy drain from my body and shuffle lethargically and unromantically down the hall and into my bedroom and into my bed without me, I discovered I can still Windex off mud and outdoor gunk from the living room floor, flip the living room rug by myself (revealing a vaguely un-battered/un-mud-stained, other-side-of-rug, who cares?), bake a red velvet cake, frost it heavily, remove fingerprints from quite tall windows and clean/plunge the toilet, finishing just in time to ponder prepping the toddler’s dinner. All this I can do while my energy snores on as if I’ve never existed.

This March, I’ve discovered it’s amazing what I can accomplish in fits and starts. My husband says I should take it easier, maybe bake a cake one day, was a dish the next—but I like how the light comes through the unfingerprinted windows and kisses the spotless floor, creating a birch-gleam I deem attractive and then I glance up, see the freshly planted sweet broom and lavender in the garden, and I notice the aroma of just-baked red velvet cake—and I’ll be damned if I (despite my energy’s god-snores from the bedroom) don’t feel like writing. And just as I sit down at my computer, remove my sunglasses and pull up Word, just as the incredibly pervasive March light penetrates the very bones of my psyche, just as I type “Fits-And-Starts” and tap the return key while uttering a merry, “Ah hah!”, the UPS guy bangs on the screen door, the giant picture falls off the living room wall and both the toddler—and my energy—awaken, with disparate moods.

O March toddler!

Several Senses Of Late…

Sunday, February 21st, 2010


Obstacle Course Part One

“When my mom was 23, she had 4 kids, a kid with kids, and the second we were 18 she was all, Okay, outta here, you’re on your own, make your own way, don’t expect help from us and if you have kids? Don’t call us or expect us to do anything about it. We’re done! And it bums me out because, you know, I want my kids to have grandparents in their lives…”

A woman in Trader Joe’s who looked to be in her 30’s was calmly saying all this into her cell phone as both of us perused the cereals/cereal bar section. I hate it when people talk on their cell phones indoors in public places. Like the time the guy in front of me in the Albertson’s check-out line shouted into his cell phone (as he handed the checker money, then scrounged his wallet and pockets for more): “You’re going to need your toothbrush and underpants. Do NOT forget underpants. When they show up at the door to cuff you, tell them you KNOW you’re allowed to bring your toothbrush and underpants. I’ll meet you there.”

Obstacle Course Part Two

But this woman’s story struck home. I was glad she was speaking to someone she could even tell it to. A few seconds later I heard her utter catchwords like, ‘therapist’ and ‘self-healing’ as T—ensconced in the shopping cart—demanded another chunk of fresh kalamata olive bread to appease his loathing of going into stores (unless the store is Old Navy with its toddler and big kid mannikins and faithfully-sitting- motionlessly-by-with-a-frozen-grin, dog mannikin—doggikin?). This woman did not shout into her phone. She wasn’t irate, bitter, snarly, or even sad. She seemed to be simply relating what was, as though she’d been working, internally, on this ‘was’ for quite some time. And I just happened to be there to hear it.


Obstacle Course Part Three

T was alone in the front yard—meaning I was watching him from the front doorway, meaning I was unseen from the pavement in front of our house, where a woman jogged by—slooooooowly. She glanced at T playing with my inherited, heavy pewter ash tray I keep on a tree stump for crude decor (where else does one put ashtrays these days?). The woman glanced at T and shook her head as though disgusted by seeing him “alone” in the yard. But instead of coming to my front door and saying, Hey! Parents! WTF!, instead of checking to see if I was dying of a heart attack on the kitchen floor, instead of checking, SHE CROSSED HERSELF and carried on jogging. She. Crossed. Herself. I walked to the pavement and watched her jog down to Lull Street and around the corner, my mouth, I suppose, slightly agape. Part of me wanted to run after her, screaming: YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT I FEED HIM, LADY! BURNT CRAP AND MCDONALD’S! And how silly. How silly is that. Come on. How utterly, cavewoman-ish silly. Although a cavewoman would have been far too busy for a reaction like mine. She would have had a baby on her back and a baby at her breast as she foraged relentlessly for food, dreaming of refrigerators, Trader Joe’s and gods that understand the importance of an occasional pedicure for a busy mother’s psyche. I’m pretty sure stuff that shouldn’t be is growing along the gaps between the left and right sides of my stove and kitchen walls. Weeds threaten the newly pruned rose bushes. A pile of hard cover books need their covers replaced from T’s book-denuding episode two months ago. I, like the cavewoman, do not have time to dwell on the insensitivity of a stranger. But it felt as if she’d thrown poo at my house and I just happened to see it…


Obstacle Course Part Four

T and I came home from Lowe’s today with lavender plants. He “helped” me put them in the earth in the front yard’s confusing jungle-mixed-with-baldness. I have this idea of planting lavender all over the ponderosa and calling our house “Lavender House”. Yes. I am currently utterly hormonal, emotional, teary-eyed over bees in the blossoms or sobbing over Tide commercials and should probably be fenced in like a poor zoo creature…So we planted the lavender and came back inside and T rushed out back to engage with the sand and water table and I took the opportunity of his absence indoors to vacuum, only there was a SMELL, an awful, choke on your bile type of smell dogging my every move and I thought, It’s T’s diaper, but of course he was outside and then it finally dawned on me that the smell was coming from ME, and I broke out in a cold sweat, looked at the sole of my left shoe—and there it was. Cat poop. I glanced over my shoulder and saw I’d tracked it all over the living room as I was vacuuming and wondering about THE SMELL and blaming my son.

Which all goes to say that I should really look to my own person before judging others, before taking the time and energy to send bad juju to a stranger or blame others for things that happent to me or hate people for talking on their cell phones in public—even if I don’t want to hear it. If you need your underpants and toothbrush because they’re coming to cuff you, it’s pretty awful. If you want grandparents in your life and you can’t have them and the only time you can talk about it—because you’re a busy mother—is in Trader Joe’s on your cell phone, okay. I do have time to forgive someone who doesn’t know me or my son for a rude transgression, but I don’t have time to blame the universe when it’s my own foot meeting cat poop.

And I always, should always have time to count my blessings.

Obstacle Course Part–oh I can’t remember…

You know? O Lavender House–you are coming along.


On Things Growing Around Here…

Friday, December 18th, 2009

If you look closely (since the zoom on our camera has frozen and I am unable to procure zoomy shots these days), beyond the cactus and hibiscus leaves there seems to be green at long last in the front yard. I am hopeful, anyway. During the last rainstorm I was outside hurling grass seed hither and thither frantically, thinking: This is it! This is our chance for a lawn! I did not wake up to a verdant Home & Garden type scape the next morning, nor many mornings since all that wonderful rain, however this morning—well, the yard was full of surprises.

Grass? Hmmm…

The backyard, too, shows promise—the green sprouting there is quite luscious. I am hoping it will infect all 6,000 sq ft or so of land comprising the toddler’s playground, replacing the spiky, hurting grass currently in residence.


Bottom line, after having been a boat girl, then city dweller for so, so long I am simply amazed—now that I have my own dirt parcels—that things—you know—GROW. You plant them, and they grow! You give them water regularly and voila: they grow. You don’t even need a spectacularly green thumb for the things to grow. They just do! You feed a toddler healthy food and guess what? Sprouting action all over the place. A miracle! Lovely. Life, life burgeoning across the Ponderosa. I continue to be amazed. The only things that grew on my various boats were book-eating mildew and algae—never exciting.

And where there is life there is also optimism—once I uproot the weeds.

O give us peaches in 2010!

Above is what I believe to be a peach tree (sorry about the blur) though we never saw any peaches this past summer. I was told by someone who knows about such things not to panic when the leaves started falling off, that the tree was going to sleep and would hopefully wake up in a fruit-producing mood at some indeterminate time in the next California Spring. I was also advised to “cut back” the branches. After Googling this process, I’ll take it on myself to do the cutting since my husband—advised to “cut back” what we believed to be an apple tree—did this to it:


You said to cut it way down! he protested when I protested. To be fair, what my husband and I know about trees consists of burning them in the fireplaces of vacation cabins…


And so we persevere with cultivating the Ponderosa. In Winter. Spring/Summer will be so interesting, especially if we can build the deck and add the above-ground-swimming-pool. Adventures ahoy, baby! (I tell my baby). Adventures ahoy! (seriously, though, I’m so glad to be a landlubber now vs. the cold, cramped lifestyle chronically swaying sailboats offer one…)

A rose in Winter!

Speaking of growing, S and I will have our 3rd wedding anniversary next week. 3 years, 1 baby and 1 house purchase later, I had no idea I could love him more than I did that day he bent to one knee on guano-spattered La Jolla rock and, as dolphins frolicked in my peripheral vision, proposed. This married-togetherness and parenting stuff—THIS is what my sisters have talked about animatedly in that strange, baffling language, the one formerly-dedicated-Singletons can’t interpret until—until everything.

Blog Break: Tree Ornaments…

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Stuffed snowman! Felt mice! Wooden apple! Ummm—vinyl gold balls!!! Vinyl silver pear!!! Uh—-oh, oh, I know: angel made of shiny material!!!

Er—things, or rather: Christmas ornaments that won’t break when your toddler yanks them from the tree and throws them at your windows? Or the cats? Or your face?

That’s it! Yes! You have won the $20,000 Pyramid!!! (of goldfish crackers—if you’re lucky–now scram, would ya? Mama needs a nap…)

O Small Tree!

Boo Break: Belated…

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Speaking like a giraffe.

Giraffe for: I want my cookie!

And last year: Arrrrrrr! Our little pirate/poet with mega un-sealegs and hair that had no idea which way to grow!

Arrrrr! Just learned to walk!

And this year in addition to being a giraffe, a pirate with hair that has figured life out. (same costume! only 12 months later he can wear the pants)

Arrrrrrrr! Big boy pirate!

Same goofy parents, though. Poor kid. Arrrrrrr (said like sigh).

Arrrrrrrr!!! cough cough cough

Island Of Discarded Toys…(blog break)

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Discard: whale shark

Discard: kiddie pool rejects

Discard: lonely giraffe

Discard: puppy dog

Discard: sock monkey

Discard: Jack

Discard: elephant

Discard: bear

Discard: 1 unfortunate frog

Discard: mystery toy

Broken track!

Al on the tracks!

Al is so large!

Captured ringtail!

Crushed tiger!

On Wildlife On Human Heads…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Saturday, late afternoon, feeling my stream of NO-NO’s weaken from the continuous “Thomas” DVD requests, I suggested the 25 mile drive North—away from the smoke and ash of the fires currently raging—to Zuma Beach. My fatigued husband, who had battled his own personal firestorms all week as a worker back in the corporate world, surprised me with a quick, decisive, “Let’s f*%#*%# do it!”

He didn’t really say that, but that’s how my startled mind interpreted sudden enthusiasm from someone who actually needed a nap worse than me.

So we cooked up the Trader Joe’s cheese pizza, filled sippy cups, stuffed Infant Tylenol, Desitin, matches, scissors, sewing kit, packets of astronaut food, flannels (in case the next Ice Age hit while we were out) and everything else we could think of into the diaper bag, grabbed the “Thomas” obsessed little guy and took off, me thinking the entire drive up and over the baking mountain, Crap, what about vegetables, he’s not getting any vegetables tonight, he’s not—oh shut up!

Because sometimes you just have to go to the beach for dinner, even if you have no vegetables to take along. Because when it’s 105 degrees outside and the blow-up kiddie pool is shriveling and it’s late afternoon and grandma’s gone home and you and your husband slept for 5 minutes on your Saturday because that’s how long your son’s nap lasted and the little guy is moving on to the next thing and that’s going to include you getting up off the living room couch and following him from one end of the house to the other, you start thinking about where the coolest place with room to run a 21 month old is within driving distance that is NOT a crowded mall—and that would be: the beach, the one that everyone is leaving for the day just as you arrive.

Of course the toddler napped blissfully on the way there.

But that meant my husband and I could visit uninhibitedly and if we happened to utter an expletive, our little parrot would not repeat it. (Freedom!)

And when we arrived at Zuma, not only did we choose a lovely, sparsely populated bit of beach with a view of several pods of dolphins frolicking, but we happened to be sitting right where the man with the seagull on his head walks by every single dusk.

You really feel like you’ve seen it all when you watch your amazed toddler watch the man with the seagull on his head watch zany dolphins surfing Zuma waves. And then you talk to the man with the seagull on his head and you find out right away that he is not, in fact, crazy. His eyes are lucid and he tells endearing stories about the gulls—birds most people treat like pesky flies, or worse. I encourage every parent of a toddler to go to Zuma Beach near dusk, to Lifeguard station #12 and wait for the man with the seagull on his head to come along. He’s good at talking to children—all calm and happy-docent-ish, fielding goofy questions with a patient smile. When he said goodbye to us (and the rest of the amazed little crowd that had gathered), we waved as he strolled off up the beach into the sunset, kept waving even though he couldn’t see us waving—a man and a wild gull (occasionally unfurling her wings to keep her balance on his cranium) connecting. They made quite the catchy silhouette.

I glanced at the ocean as my husband and our son moved on to kicking the beachball around. The dolphins were still there, throwing up tails and flippers and making the water froth. I love dolphins. I wondered if I swam out to them, would they include me in their games? Would we connect?

I walked to the surfline, stuck my toe in the water, yelped. F’ing freezing!!! I hastily withdrew my feet from the tide’s reach, pretty sure the dolphins would try to sit on my head, anyway, and I’d drown, or they’d swim away from me and a shark would take their place and bite off my foot like that one bull shark did to that unlucky dude fishing in shallow water and then how effective a mother would I be, hobbling after my son because I was stupid enough to go dolphin seeking at dusk, when, as everyone knows, sharks feed…I breathed in delicious sea air and joined in the beachball kicking still going on, glad to have both of my feet. High above us, seagulls shrieked delightedly, circling our picnic dinner.

Little Blue Pills…

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Always interesting when one of my parental figures visits our Ponderosa for a weekend. I end up recovering from a heady hangover of memories and toxic tidbits from my childhood I’ve either heard a gazzillion times or completely forgotten about.


Like the Swedish au pair my parents hired who, the second my parents went out of town for a weekend and left her in charge of their four little girls, invited a motorcycle gang over for an all night party.

lil cowpoke

Or the French au pair my parents hired after the Swedish au pair was dismissed—a jumpy, wild-eyed young woman who, if our parents were away, wouldn’t let us play outside or use the telephone, who slept with her bedroom light on because she was convinced there were ghosts in our house—prompting my older sister and I to hide under our parents’ bed and, when the French au pair came in the room to clean, utter spooky sounds, freaking the woman out so intensely she called a priest to come over and help her pack, quitting her position in our household (thrilling us)…

Or the time I was 2 years old and was rushed to the hospital to have my stomach pumped because, although surrounded by adults (including my parents), I discovered a tranquilizer on my grandmother’s kitchen tile and popped it in my mouth. The only reason I didn’t die is because after swallowing the pill I crawled into my grandmother’s lap and she happened to detect an odd blue residue on my lips and, in a moment of blown horror, was able to put the pieces together (it was her tranquilizer…).

Lil lil cowpoke/cowboy

Or the size of the insects occupying the musty, ancient farmhouse we moved into upon first arriving in England, when I was 7. How my parents moved us to a hotel rather than endure their daughters’ screams upon discovering fist-sized spiders in their cold, funky farmhouse beds, or in the creepy, funky farmhouse claw-footed bathtub that literally belonged in a museum.

On the Pater’s latest visit he remarked on how much I loved school when we lived in England and he was shocked when I corrected him. I did well in my British school, but for 4 years was teased for being American. Every. Single. Day. I liked schoolwork, but I didn’t like going to school, I told the Pater. When he gasped and protested, so eager to set me straight he choked on his Salmon Alfredo, I jumped in and reminded him about all the stomach and sideaches I used to get that allowed me to stay home. I’ve had a similar conversation with the Mater. I don’t like correcting my parents. I don’t like shattering their illusions about their daughter’s childhood. I mean, I get how no one could have seen me pick up that deadly little blue pill and swallow it. I get how my parents would rather believe I liked school in England, despite all the times I’ve tried to tell them otherwise. I get all that. However…

After 21 months of diaper blowouts, breastfeeding, barfing extravaganzas, and sleepless nights, no au pairs in sight, I have no illusions of what it’s like for myself or my son as we get to know each other. It’s hard being a baby/toddler. It’s easier now being a parent than it was months 0-3, but I realize I’ve signed up for a lifetime of challenges and worry.

And it’s this School of Parenthood, the one with too many books and way too much advice, that I show up for every day (and in the middle of most nights) wanting to learn and participate. And it’s from my brief time in this school so far that, when I find one of the Pater’s little blue pills he takes every day lying on my kitchen tile, I reach down, pick it up, take the Pater aside and am able to advise him in my nicest, most patient, juggling-50,000-things-yet-still-lucid, Parenthood TA’s voice, “History is not repeating itself here, Pater darling, no, nooooooo, not here. ‘Kay?”

Or not…

And, finally, and though he looks a little shocked, my Pater understands.


Monday, July 20th, 2009

And the cat dead and the new novel unread and the sleek floor gone over for the 25th time in 48 hours and the jade bug saved and ants investigating the kitchen sink flooded and toys rescued from the melting glare and the gravestone in shadow and the chimes pulled from the fruit tree by wind sent from a roughed up witch and her pot of heat and hide and time with the gravestone but time with the boy and his blue pail and our garden hose loosing water splashing his smile and the boy sleeping in the room where I creep to recline and breathe and watch the swallowtail circus-act with orange blossoms outside the streaked window and more people arriving with seashells and wine and people arriving with a riled dusk and candles in a shadow-sparse yard with the gravestone and a lawn we have come to coax and a house with a name now and cats pleased by those floors and beds to choose and the kitchen with filled cupboards refusing to close and his books on the coffee table and all available chairs and the room with music if anyone cares to and the house breaks and the house is fixed and we move through it in our bare summered feet and use its funny rooms with the quirks and the jade bugs and we wake up here with the cat dead and the novel to finish and we broach a new enthusiasm: owned, owning, owning this summer’s scald and slow scurry, owning up to this owning of the broken and the unfinished and what remains beneath the potato vine and precious water and mown grass and roses to plant and the feel of this armored summer on our faces clueing us in so that we quickly agree to agree to owning this piece of a little bit more than any years prior and to owning the gravestone and to owning all bugs and we sit in our chairs with our floe-drinks and toast the waterbaby in the garden who owns the whole world.


Withnail and I and Me

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Faced with the enormity of fixing up a fixer-upper whilst keeping a toddler from, say, sticking forks/fingers/tips of shoelaces, etc., into plateless electrical outlets waiting to be converted from two prongs to three, my mind flashes on the movie “Withnail and I”.

Firetruck inspection!

Specifically: When The Boys are having it rough, cowering in Uncle Monty’s dark, freezing, English country cottage, believing themselves stalked by a poacher.

But then, suddenly, Uncle Monty arrives with food, light and alcohol. He civilizes the musty cottage in seconds, astounding The Boys.

I like Uncle Monty’s apron and how he takes charge and forces that cottage to obey him and become warm and cozy.

Investigating with a pen’s cap.

When scrubbing our fixer-upper bathroom, the annoyingly tiny bathroom with the ridiculous window fitted with louvers, when tackling bathtub grout grimy as street urchins from Oliver Twist, when attempting to clean, then batten down shower doors that swing, I do my best to channel Uncle Monty.

Don’t be cowardly! (I scold the Withnail and I in me as I cower before the sink’s cabinet into which I’m sure I saw a tiny darkdarkdark shadow glide) Tug on those rubber gloves, get on your bleedin’ knees and show that bloody thing who’s bloody boss! Bloody hell! Are you a mother, or a bloody mouse! Or, rather, a bloody English newt!

Who are you talking to? My husband asks, passing the open bathroom door.


This is my house. And I will teach this bathroom a lesson in civility, in decorum. It will listen! Because I am Uncle Monty. Without all the weight. And—homosexuality. And I don’t like sherry. Although I had a lot of sherry in Andover, once. It was a Christmastime. I was helping make authentic British sausage rolls and trifle. The kitchen was cozy, smelled delicious and run by a tiny British mum who could have kicked Uncle Monty’s enormous ass in the Capability Department. She wouldn’t have allowed moldy grout in her loo, or things slinking into dark places there.

I should have finished out my Christmas holiday at that mum’s house, with my good friend, P. P and Mum encouraged me to stay. Instead, I slunk off with a lying, cheating mime to Cornwall and ate bitter Christmas fish in a drafty B&B. We fought about nothing on a moonlit cliff with a view of Tintagel’s sad ruins, surf bashing Cornish rocks far below us, too many unknowns going bump in the ghastly Cornish night…

Ah, little mum. Uncle Monty! I’ve come a loooooooong way. But I’m still learning.

Hence this: And now, please excuse me while I fetch my chipper husband, who is better than I am when it comes to exposing things that lurk in the dark—poachers, garden spiders, evil newts and one’s occasionally grouty past.

But make no mistake! I shall bloody return and finish the bloody bathroom job. Because I’ve bloody grown. Bloody hell.

Sweet dreams! And have a bloody good tomorrow.


Strange Dreams…

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Since we moved into the Ponderosa (aka Seabiscuit), I’ve been having the strangest dreams at night in my new blue and white bedroom. Here’s last night’s:

I’m in England or Ireland doing a play and it’s getting close to stage time but Bono is around and he and I have to make up or I’m going to go crazy and not be able to perform so I wave at him from across a crowded room and he waves back and yells he has to go jog and suddenly I am Bono jogging through a city filled with old-world spires and he’s/I’m nodding at people as he/I jog in my jeans and long black wool coat and he’s/I’m enjoying life as I jog through a cobbled square because I’ve made up with me and all is well and suddenly I’m running down a hallway to a green room where some actresses are sitting and I’m telling them breathlessly that Bono and I have made up and have they seen him but they say no and look sort of non-plussed about it all and I turn around and there down the hall is Bono flanked by two women I seem to know and they’re coming along the hall and I rush to Bono and we embrace not passionately but firmly only now Bono is a short dark haired woman with a wise smile and someone I have never met although everyone calls her Bono and suddenly I’m positive I’ve seen her on Oprah.

And then I woke up, bemused. One thing I know for sure: I’m going to listen to some U2 today.


The Tip Of The Wave…

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

I checked in recently with my dear friends Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy. If you will recall, Moot Daddy was laid off from the company that said it would never go away just as escrow was closing on Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy’s new home. Although Moot Daddy has yet to secure a new permanent position, although Moot Mommy’s emotions are all over the map as she races after their energetic toddler and frets about what to feed everybody next since she has no working oven and an extremely limited budget, mostly, however, Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy are riding the “tip of the fast-moving wave”, vs. wallowing in a hideous, life-sucking trough.

It’s not easy to ride the tip of the wave. There are many matters to worry about in between trips to Lowe’s and fixing up a fixer-upper and minding a toddler. “In order to stay on the tip of the wave you’re riding, it’s vital to remember present miracles,” Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy told me (as I took notes).

Present Miracle Number One (The Moots told me): Escrow on our new home closed. Despite Moot Daddy’s silly company letting him go, despite Escrow not having to close, it did. It. Frikkin’. Closed! Yes, we had minor meltdowns during the excruciating waiting period, but 99% of the time we kept positive and kept a kind of faith in the Universe providing for us. Seriously! Then: Miracle! Gift! Whatever you want to call it (The Moots told me). We’re here, living in our investment, there’s a yard for our son, and with the help of family the place is really coming together.

Two (The Moots told me): Family! Also friends and friends-of-family and even some strangers. You just never know (the Moots told me, meaning Moot Mommy’s cousins who had decided to buy all new furniture just as Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy were moving and to give to Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy their barely used, like new couches and 55″ TV. Score!) where abundance is going to come from. Nor should you try to know where abundance is going to come from. Just—let it come.

Three (they told me): Ask for things. Like–well, not only new jobs, but S hooks. Moot Daddy really needed a certain kind of S hook for a certain backyard project and, in his own way, asked for it and suddenly: as he was raking up the yard, there turned up two, not one, but two S hooks, unearthed in our dirt. This may sound a very small thing to receive, S hooks (The Moots told me). However, a trip saved from going to the hardware store when you’re fixing up the fixer-upper and keeping a baby from discovering the skin-puncturing and the rusted-dangerous? Miracle! Gift! Etc.! The most appreciated S hooks we’ve ever had.

Four (they told me, watching their toddler water his sandbox with the garden hose): We repeat the “You just never know” bit. Listen: before Moot Daddy was laid off, we were looking for a Playhouse on Craig’s List. After Moot Daddy was laid off, we decided to wait on buying one, then—bam! Our friends called out of the blue and offered us an extremely new looking, electronics-working playhouse. They even delivered it and assembled it for us. Kind of like the S hooks scenario, only better. Miracle! Gift! Family! Friends! Get it? Hope so (Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy told me, corralling the toddler and heading indoors), because we’re too frikkin’ tired to talk to you anymore, PB. Naptime. See yourself out? Buh-bye.

Hi there!