Archive for the ‘Usual Drama?’ 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.


On Non-Reacting…

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Today, as I made a deposit at the BofA drivethru ATM, a car pulled in behind me and the driver said, immediately, loudly, COME ON.

Hm, I thought, depositing my checks. How rude!


The man continued to express himself.


Oh. Hell.

Words cannot express the beauty…

This is the thing about me—I too often see red when provoked by a stranger’s rudeness. Red makes me act hastily vs. breathe and remember crucial situation-bits, such as: he could have a gun, he could get out of his car and strangle me, I could endanger my son’s life by responding to his rudeness. Lately I’ve been so good about not responding to rudeness that I can’t even recall any rude encounters since—well, since the last bout. If anyone has been rude, I’ve been oblivious to it. Life has been one joyous set of outings! I’m pretty sure, anyway.


Mama’s crude helicopter…

When seeing red, I forget that whatever a rude stranger’s problem is, it isn’t mine, therefore, I: don’t need to react.


When seeing red, my usual eye color of blue-tinged-with-a-stricken-gray is completely obscured. Red conceals the very whites of my eyes. I look like Medusa on a Red Bull binge (like she needs an energy drink). I look totally, mirror-image-y, Norma Desmond (spitting fire).


Such magnificence of abstraction!

As I was saying, lately I’ve been working on letting things go, on forgiveness and compassion. I feel better when I forgive and move on—I feel freer—lighter—I like myself more—and besides, I’m busy! I don’t have room in my heart for a bunch of old hurt feelings, guilt or resentment. I have a family! How lucky, how marvelous, how—



I like T’s drawings better than mine…

I didn’t say this out loud. I promise. But I did pull ever-so-slowly away from the ATM, sending the man into a heightened verbal rage. My hands shook on the wheel. My breath came fast. My heart felt like a million fingers were drumming on it. When I finally drove out of the bank’s lot, saying cheerful things to T in his carseat, what I felt was a depth-plumbing dismay.

I had let some stranger and his rudeness affect me. As my grandmother used to say, Oh for crying in the beer, PB!

Ah, simplicity…

On the other hand, even as I antagonized that man, I was conscious of what I was doing, conscious that I wasn’t proud of myself, and I heard, though did not heed, a special voice clearly advising me to move on, move on. Voice from my heart. Yeah. I heard it.

When I pulled into the parking lot of Trader Joe’s, T babbling happily about clown fish, my breathing was steadier, my brain was back in “calm”. During the brief drive from BofA to the store, I’d vowed to try harder to non-react to rudeness. Because this vow came so swiftly on the heels of the Rudeness Event, vs. a week, or months later, I decided that I was a step closer to personal progress, to being able to let it go sooner than ever before in my life. Perhaps the next time I am confronted with a stranger’s rudeness I will be able to fully non-react without even a hint of red clouding my eyes. Hm…

Sometimes, I am sooooooooo nice to myself.

Love the real thing, too…

I hope.


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.



April’s March Madness?

Monday, April 12th, 2010


Lady Clerk scans my items in Borders as my son declares, loudly, his confusion as to why there’s no debit machine on his side of the checkout desk. Lady Clerk says to me: You really should come to our toddler’s storytime. Your kid would love it. I lead the reading and we have LOTS of fun.

Me: Actually, he doesn’t do well at story—

Lady Clerk: Your email isn’t coming up in the system. Give it to me.

Me (shifting my son to my other hip): Um, okay—I do get emails from Borders, though—

Lady Clerk: Just give it to me.

Me: Oooookay.

I give her my email, spelling it out not once, twice, but three times as my son squirms and demands the non-existent buttons and yanks on the collar of my coat like it’s a bell pull and he’s announcing a fire to the town…Or something like that…I am operating on a late night of tax prep and an early rising, 5:15a.m., when all of my son’s lights went on like—like a Mama’s nightmare.

Lady Clerk: Yeah, but there’s usually an at. Like, at Yahoo dot com. What is your at.

Me: At PB Rippey dot com.

Lady Clerk: Yeah, but there’s always an at. What’s your at, your AT.

Me: At PB Rippey dot com?

Lady Clerk: No, that’s wrong. There is always an AT.


Me (with significance and focus): At PB Rippey dot com.

Lady Clerk: Just give me the whole email address again. I have the first part, letter Z, letter P, now what’s the AT?

Me: Not Z. It’s P as in—perambulator. B as in—bulimia. At. PB Rippey dot com.

Lady Clerk (with a scolding sort of glance): Ah, well! You didn’t say that before. Storytime is Tuesdays at……….

Blah, blah, blah.

What I wish I’d said, being the Queen Of Hindsight:
1. Actually, I told you my correct email three times. OR
2. You know what? You’re just not hearing me today. Let’s move on. OR

No black hole here!


Me (after waiting patiently for the postal lady behind the counter to sort her post office-y items and chat to her coworker about drainpipes disengaging from stucco): I’d like to mail this, please.

Postal Lady Clerk (weighs my manila envelope): Dollar ninety-five.

Me (as T, on my hip, lunges for the buttons of the debit machine): Oof. Here you are.

Postal Lady Clerk (with great alarm): This is a twenty!!! Don’t you have anything smaller?

Me: Ow. T! Careful of mama’s kidney. I’m sorry, no, I don’t have—

Postal Lady Clerk (raises my twenty dollar bill and waves it at her coworker at the other end of the long post office counter): She’s wiping me out! Do you have any ones?

Her cohort (with a derisive snort): Nope.

Postal Lady Clerk: She’s taking all of my change with this twenty. You’ve got to help me out!

Her cohort (snorting): No, I don’t. Use some of your coins as change.

I have now ceased to exist in the post office. I don’t even offer to use my debit card because 1) T has taken over the debit machine and, 2) I am invisible.

Postal Lady Clerk: She could have given me something smaller, gone to the store first and broken the twenty. Whole Foods it’s just next door! Anyone can see that.

Her cohort: Snort.

Postal Lady Clerk (handing me my change): I’m wiped out. I’m just plain wiped out.

I haul my son from the counter and leave the place for good.

What I wish I’d said:
1. Excuse me, stop—listen—I can use my debit card if you give me a second. OR,
2. Hi–I’m standing right here in front of you and am totally aware of everything you are saying. Can we find a solution? OR:

No vortex hampering this outing!


I can’t even go here without becoming a livid, raving, rabid beast as it involves my child being reprimanded by some guy.

What I wish I’d said:

This response feels cathartic and right, even if it’s immature and wrong of me. It’s better than murder. And maybe I wouldn’t have felt better saying it, but I wish I’d thought of it at the time. My hindsight is keeping me up nights. What to do?


If April is the “cruellest month”, here’s to May’s blithely bobbing, uber-fragrant, terminally cheerful flowers. And to turkeys with good breath and gams. And most of all, here’s to sleep, sleep little boy, sleep from 9:00p.m. until at least 6:00a.m. Enjoy your night’s rest—and watch the return of your mama’s sanity, watch her hindsight rise to the surface of her blank, frayed consciousness, watch her deal with snarky people with confidence and ease, defying the suck of black holes, et al, handling everyday crises so well that never again will you hear her muttering angrily in the minivan as she screeches from the premises of venues previously oh-just-fine to visit. Here’s to the bobbing flowers, to sleep and to the next visit to Border’s. I know what black holes smell like. I recognize the eerie shimmer of an approaching vortex. I am an adult. Ha, ha! Watch me, baby. Watch me rise. Lullaby, and good night…

Or something like that.

Who needs the post office, anyway.


And Then I Scrub The Toilet…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Married 3 years, parent 2 years and 4 months, homeowner for less than 1 year: these simple facts are still sinking into my everyday reality, like a shoe going slowly down in a thick, bubble-popping bog. I will glance out the kitchen window, marveling at house finches perched blithely on scary-thorny stalks of the rose bushes, or I will study the front lawn the rains have given us, or I’ll clown for my son barefoot in the backyard on that new, luscious lawn and BAM, the shoe is sucked under by bog and I’m left wasted and trembling, thinking: that’s my lawn, my rose bush–I planted it. That’s my rock and my tree root and my leaf dappled walkway. Huh (I muse shakily). I’m married. That’s my child singing the “Little Einsteins” theme song as he waters the beachball. That’s my cobwebbed beam in my living room, my clunking garbage disposal in my kitchen, my birch flooring. I have birch flooring and it’s mine. I am a birch flooring sort of homeowner. I am not renting! (I muse, palms sweating, chills scuttling down my spine) I am not renting! I live in a house, my own house, I own the house. I am happily married and I have a child as wondrous as comets or spring tulips. Wow. Somebody throw me a banana.

Messe room to room…

The shoe sinks, reality hits and I, a writer, a poet, come up with: Wow. Somebody throw me a banana.

Messes, messes, messes…

And then I scrub the toilet. Wash dishes. Wipe fingerprints from windows and computer screens. And then I fill a blue plastic bucket with water, place it on the sand and water table outdoors and watch my son go wild splashing. And then I change his diaper, take him grocery shopping or to a playdate or a park or the endlessly fascinating aisles of Target—or I’m teaching about escalators or I’m making him meals I pray he’ll approve of—or I’m riding the exercise bike or I’m paying bills or I’m waiting for him to fall asleep at night, collapsed with a glass of wine and 3 loads of laundered items needing a Puritan folding as “Chariots Of Fire” fills the TV screen and my husband utterly explains his day…


And instead of reeling from stunning, earth renting insight, I start feeling as though we’ve always been this little famly of 3 in our house in pleasantly shushed suburbs we used to scoff at when we were dating and doing radical things like seeing movies in theatres and eating at restaurants. Oh how far we’ve come.


Shoe? I know you’re bogged down, but maybe resurface to sink again if you happen to notice I’m becoming too complacent, too stressed or impatient—because finches on rose bushes, their tiny claws precisely spaced, deftly avoiding thorns sharp enough to be amputation devices—or my son in March light, cometing, vibrant—or my husband enthusiastically mowing our new lawns—such bits should never go unnoticed, never deserve a glance, but a pondering of at least a minute, enough time for a passionate savoring before housework trumpets like a runaway beast and I sink into acquired domesticity.

I don’t care about messes. Sad, but true.

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.


So Sorry…

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

to be so out of touch! Taking a blog break while a nasty computer/hard drive issue is (hopefully) sorted out.

Has the busy face on!

In the not too distant past, a crashed hard drive on my laptop—i.e. my MAIN ARTERY TO EVERYTHING—would have had me weeping and cursing within seconds and for as many hours or days as it might take to fix anything.

Busy, busy, busy…

However, I am learning from Moot Mommy and Daddy and their recent saga, during which they committed to being positive despite extremely uncertain times…

Ah, warm weekday in deepest February…

And anyway, I was able to back up the writing I’m working on to a memory stick before the crash happened. So all of my all is not lost. Yet. iwillbepositive iwillbepositive

Speaking of LOST, I was watching it on my now dead laptop. Weren’t you? Watching it, I mean? Taking your Dharma tee shirt out of the drawer, lovingly unfolding it and wearing it for the premiere? Oh, my. The sets! The lush settings! The acting! Des and Penny and their kid (even though we only saw Des). How I’ve missed it. I’m quite liking the double storyline—but I’m sure there’s more, there’s deeper, there’s all that I will never (as with the other seasons) figure out, especially with a dubiously sleeping toddler messing with the firing of my synapses…Dharma out.

“So sorry about your hard drive, mother darling!”, he’s saying.

The Problem With Going Home…

Monday, January 25th, 2010

That officially unrecorded song by anon (performed only a few times in dark, semi-smoky locations reeking of spilt beer and wrinkled pimientos before anon’s band became snarling strangers to one another and broke up) plays constantly in my head as we’re hitting the beaches, the harbor, the courtyards, the parks in the early a.m.—parks, beaches, playgrounds 5 minutes from each other—running him, showing him, running after him, strolling him:

Shoreline Park before 7am.

Heading into Santa Barbara on a 1/4 tank of gas. Dollar in my pocket, you don’t have to ask me if I’m happy. It’s written in my smile. So the highway captured me, well I turned around. Moon is at my back tonight.

SB Harbor, late afternoon.

Harbor lights are glowing, there’s a sunset in your eyes. With not a mile between us, you don’t have to ask me do I love you. Loved you all this time. Had a fight with the last horizon. I turned around. Moon is at my back tonight.

Sky to Ocean.


Feel my future open.

More Ledbetter.

I have run from this. Leaving you behind. Had a fight with the last horizon. Turned around. Moon is at my back tonight.

And I want you to know: I’ve loved you all this time.

Shoreline Park. Same early morning.

I want you to know: I’ve loved you all this time.

Little guy.

Cheesy little song. Though apt.

(lyrics reprinted with anon’s permission, because even though she forgets to water plants or remove bagels from the broiler in a timely manner, she actually remembered to copyright her songs)

Zoo Parenting 101…

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

When you make an excursion to the zoo on a saturday and the weather is gorgeous and it’s the San Diego Zoo so in addition to locals you are in the company of a gazzilion off-season tourists taking advantage of cheap off-season vacation packages—when you are all (tourists, locals, families, random human herds) packed together in a zoo that won’t allow you to walk your kids or strollers on the wide streetways because of the double-decker tour buses constantly motoring by—when you’re forced to walk on narrow sidewalks past the animal exhibits, each exhibit creating instant gridlock, the sun increasingly hotter than the weatherpeople predicted and then there are those gnarly hills, there, at the SD Zoo, red-cheek-creating hills—let’s face it: there are going to be scenes.

O Elephants!

My husband and I witnessed many variations on the parenting of uber-hyped-out, tantrum-throwing children of all ages. We paid most attention to toddlers acting out, many by toddling deliberately away from their parents, goofy, gleeful smiles on their faces. Some parents controlled toddler-wanderlust by attaching them to leashes resembling tails of monkeys or elephants. Others had cleverly brought along extended family assigned to race after escapees. The biggest fear at the zoo for parents with small children was not the pacing lion and whether its cage bars were sturdy enough, not the elephant lolling its massive, child-attracting weight against fencing, not whether the foamy-mouthed camels lurched within spitting distance of babies, but whether a toddler was going to dart under the wheels of one of those on-coming tour buses, or vanish forever into the hot-tempered crowds. Many times we heard the following:






or the more frustrated version,


And, eventually, as the heat bore down, as the hills grew steeper, we heard:

GET BACK HERE OR (plus a threat)


GET THE HELL BACK HERE OR (plus a threat)


ONE, TWO, THREE—(with the threat of counting to 5—and then what?)


IF YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME, I’LL (plus a threat or stuttered gibberish as the parent melted down inconsolably, irrevocably, before God and Man)

The most disturbing meltdown occurred in the Lost Forest, a shady pathway winding past the slumbering hippos in their fantastic 3D pool, up to the tigers (though we couldn’t see them because of the gridlock) in their shady-rocky abode, past the turtles in their glassed-in-pond—hundreds of thousands of swimming turtles—past amazing, colorful birds you’d never see in my backyard (despite the two popular feeders). A woman approached us as we threaded through the crowds. A child was vice-gripped in her arms, a boy (3 years old?) curled to fetal, who knew he was in the vice, had ceased struggling because he recognized struggle was pointless. His mother’s face was bent over his. She was going downhill, we up and somehow this created an eerie time-slow effect so that I heard, clearly, every single word she imparted to her son. As the mother passed me with her large, slow-motion steps, my head turned in slow-motion, my mouth dropped in slow-motion and I watched her land on a bench and keeeeep ooooooon taaaaaalking to that boy as my brain screamed nooooooooooooo in deep, scary, slowed-down-speak. Nooooooooooooooooo.

If you don’t f***ing shut the f*** up you’re gonna f***ing make me f***ing crazy and do you know what the f*** that means?
Like at Granny’s? (responded the offending son)
Oh, you remember Granny’s, huh? YEAH like at F***ING Granny’s, that’s EXACTLY what the f*** I’m F***ING TALKING ABOUT—

And there was more, but I couldn’t listen. I fell back into real-time and sped after my husband and son.

What’s up? asked my husband when, after I made sure T was rapt before the gazzillion turtles, I turned and hugged him—hard. Did you hear that? I stage-whispered into his neck. Did you hear that woman? Hear what? my husband asked and I let it go, told him later, at the hotel, when T was into his pasta and DVD. Oh wow, my husband said and we were quiet, munching our dinner in a shared moment of sadness—and self-reflection.

O Turtles!

Because no matter what you witness in other parents, or what horrifying stories you read concerning other parents, stories centered around some type of baby-neglect (like the guy who left his 3 month old in its carrier beside the treadmill in his gym when he was done with his workout and drove on home like he was a single guy and had never been a parent, la dee da, until a phone call from the gym had him screeching the car into a U-turn)—being a parent and therefore experiencing challenges you couldn’t possibly have dreamt of prior to having children precisely because you didn’t have children and couldn’t know, but now that you do know, you totally “get” how a breaking point such as the one I witnessed in Cursing Mama can been reached. You know what it’s like to approach the precipice of a mental-break, to teeter on the complicated cliff’s edge of your sanity, and then scrabble for an alternative—because that’s what you do—you scrabble for the alternative, find it, use it even if it is VERY, VERY HARD to do so, even if it means you CUSS AT A SLOTH instead of your child. I admit that at that awful zoo-moment I wanted Cursing Mama fenced, fenced in, securely, with electrified bars, away from her child—I wanted the zoo’s on-call Parent Meltdown Psychotherapist to whoosh in with her bag of sanity-restoring tips and a zoo margarita sold throughout the grounds. At that moment, I hoped Cursing Mama’s child would make it to 18 yrs. unscarred, because the power struggle occurring between mother and child was too intense and apparently a close second to Granny’s house and whatever the heck went on there. O Cursing Mama! How you scared me, angered me, left me feeling wasted and shaky and grateful for my parenting books—and desperate for a zoo margarita…

We headed for the exit and miniature train ride instead.

And now——this bit more:

Connection Parenting, by Pam Leo
Playful Parenting, by Lawrence Cohen
Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm And Connected, by Susan Stiffelman

Books. They don’t hurt. They can’t help but help, MOST LIKELY.

Tattling Mama over-and-out.

O giant fake tortoise!

Hump Day…

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Tipping between lost and grateful; sold-off on, bought into, duped; never traveling with grace or without doubt; raking up luck-bits when the world naps in its stifling old box; kissing the future into strum; healing, the healer; hunkering down—more—down to a pebble’s dropped-star appeal, to strokable; keeping up; keeping all life from peril. World without end: what I whisper, believing some other woman’s fluttered-out lullaby used, used into harmless; discovered.

Touching rain

The Mama Comes Close To Tattling…

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Recently I took my son to an aquarium. He says the word fish now, recognizes different types of fish in books and those in the framed pictures on his bedroom walls. He says seahorse, starfish (yes, I KNOW it’s politically correct in aquariums to say SEASTAR since the starfish is not a fish, but COME ON NOW—the whale shark is not a shark, but who wants to say The Great And Awe Inspiring Whale Fish—the seahorse not a horse, the jellyfish not a—-etc.), and he says an entertaining version of octopus, so I thought it was time we hit the fish-stocked tanks to see those words up-close and swimming around.

What my son preferred more than viewing the marine subjects, however, was pushing buttons on the giant squid that made it squirt water at passersby. He could have done that all day. All. Day. alldayalldayalldayalldayallday…

Squirting squid

I was grateful when he agreed to a lunch break.

T never ceases to amaze me: I bought a sandwich and the second we were outside at the picnic tables he zipped into a chair, snatched half the sandwich from me and chowed down as though high chairs and lovingly prepared bite-sized pieces of food have never been a part of his life. I took a chair next to him and marveled over eating lunch with my son. Maaaarveled at his big boy bites that included lettuce, marveled that he never eats this way at home, my mind click-clicking away on new ideas for home mealtimes for my normally finnicky son—like, make EVERYTHING sandwiches!!!—T pointing at the pigeons and finches surrounding us, talking excitedly with his mouth full—when suddenly I noticed: Them.

Similar to the zoo with its Silverback’s Cafe grilling meat within smelling distance of the gorillas in their little exhibit, the aquarium’s Cafe Scuba sells fish and chips. So you can walk around and view the lovely fish and then——eat fish. A group of barely-teens boys sat at the table next to ours, inhaling their cooked fish fare, until they decided it was more fun to throw their fish and chips at the birds, kick at the birds with their feet and make a big fuss squealing (yes, squealing) about the birds milling around our tables. One boy wadded up a piece of bread into a tight pellet and beaned a finch so hard it peeped in shock and no doubt pain.

“No, you don’t hit the birds with your food or kick them, okay? You do not do that.”

The boys avoided eye contact with me. I’d probably humiliated them. I looked around. A table of elders was nearby, totally ignoring the boys. Should I have told their elders? Should I have gone inside and fetched an aquarium security type? Should I have tattled vs. take action? I glanced at my son. He was finger painting his arm with a dollop of mayo and uttering pleasant gibberish. I knew that if it wasn’t for his presence, if it wasn’t for the fact that one day he would be as old as those bird-abusing boys next to us, I would have confronted the boys more directly, in a manner I would never want my son to see or think his mother capable of, as in:

1. Get the f*#% away from the f*%@ing birds NOW! Okay? NOW!
2. You know what, dude? You know how you look, beaning a tiny bird? You look weeeeeeeeak, dude. Weeeeeeeeak. Now get the f*@% away from that finch!
3. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (the blood curdling kind of scream that brings the whole world running, emitted while standing atop a chair, fists clenched and shaking with rage)

I’m currently trying to teach T not to pull the cats’ tails or sit on Al The Naturally Large Cat’s enormous belly. I’m trying to teach him the joys of live fish and gorillas. All over the aquarium, dedicated volunteers speak daily, tirelessly to the crowds about conservation and respect for ocean inhabitants. Enter: The Bird Beaning Boys. What to do? How to react? How to prepare my son for field trips in his future? How to point out injustice without humiliating young, developing minds? But why are the developing minds committing injustices anyway? Why aren’t they listening? Why aren’t they practicing what they’re being taught? Why will boys be boys? What the hell does that really mean? Why the HELL do I ask why? How can I be a mother and be this clueless?

T and I packed up and went for a walk to the park outside the aquarium, the one with the view of the Queen Mary and that pretty lighthouse. T can say lighthouse. And oose iner for cruise liner. But he wasn’t interested in those things or the kids racing around the lawn, 10/11-year-oldish kids running off their lunches. T was interested in sitting under a shady palm tree and ransacking my backpack. As he did so, I watched the children, unable to imagine my baby that old. Hey, a girl running with a pack (pod?) of other girls declared loudly. Who dares me to kick a pigeon?

Oh dear god, I muttered, glancing around for elders, but my intervention wasn’t necessary this time. The elders blew whistles and children immediatley formed lines and marched off towards the lighthouse.

I confess I don’t ever want my son to bean finches with his food or to kick pigeons or shoot elk or polar bears or 3-legged wolves or take out any aggression on any animal. I want him to love Al The Naturally Large Cat and the entire animal kingdom. I may snuff the occasional cockroach or ant legion, but I have always championed for animal rights, saved birds, dogs, cats, mice, squirrels, or tried to. I know children need to flex control and power muscles—but probably I need to read up on teaching limits, or teaching the benefits of not kicking a pigeon or harpooning a whale. Right? Still, I thought, helping T put everything back into the pack. I’m glad I told the bird beaning boys to cut it out, even if my tone wasn’t—the nicest. Maybe there is no “nice” way of stopping such things, or not from a stranger.

I watched my son find the only mud patch in the park and grind his shoes in it gleefully. I cheered him on. Nearby, a pigeon watched us, head cocked, as though really, REALLY listening.


Zuma Procrastinator…

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Zuma again. No man with the seagull on his head—too early in the day for him. But the dolphins are here, poking their heads out of the Fresca ocean (remember Fresca?), taking a quick peek at the loungers on the beach, then moving on. T and S kicked the beachball, filled the toy truck with sand, pulled the wagon around and tested the surf’s temperature all in the first five minutes of making camp.


Since it’s post Labor Day, my husband was convinced tourist and schoolkid traffic would be minimal at Zuma. Wrong. It’s Sunday! Everyone is here. Tourists, schoolkids and Valley Escapees like us as the weather again reaches for the 90’s, stubborn as some old-ish family member who refuses to turn the oven down to a reasonable temperature when cooking the Sunday London Broil, burning it every time.


Yes. A definite desperate attempt at metaphor as I sit in a creaky beach chair in Malibu overcast, trying to jump-start my creativity.


And what is the nagging wariness I feel here on the beach? Why do my eyes shy from those friendly rollers, that mildly churned surf?


I like Zuma—at least, I like Zuma down by lifeguard stand #13. I don’t like Zuma enough to name my next child Zuma—just like I don’t like fruit enough to name a child Apple. Or Kiwi. Or Papaya Banana Jr. But it’s beautiful here. I like it here. Very much. Still…

Calm before the storm!

Truthfully, I’d like a house with a Widow’s Walk for daily private meandering—a quaintly gated widow’s walk—an open-aired, partial-turret of peace. The fins and spouts I’d monitor! The storms I’d predict and await. I’d haul a desk up there, visit it when the moment struck, then back to pacing before an ocean moodier than sky, than anything.

Which is all to say that even though Part I of my children’s novel has yet to be published, I need to start writing Part II. Even though Part I has come maddeningly, gray-hair-inducing close to acceptance, I can’t use its not being accepted (yet) as an excuse for avoiding Part II, which is packed with even more ocean than Part I, with all manner of beasts on land and sea, includes the return of Architeuthis Dux and the emergence of the Tasmanian Blobster (in pre-blob form, of course). I have begun the research, but not the writing. When I look at the ocean, I am reminded of this. And I feel nervous.


More dolphins. The Fresca has transferred from ocean to sky. The ocean, blueing deeply, flips a surfer as a pelican executes a perfect dive. When my son laughs, so do I. And the Mama-in-me kisses the procrastinator goodbye.

Togetherness is best.

Another Change…

Monday, August 24th, 2009

It’s an exciting Sunday evening. Tomorrow my husband switches from work-at-home daddy to suck-it-monkeys-I’m-going-corporate.


I confess I’ve enjoyed having him work at home, even though his concentration on work was constantly diverted by me and Mr. T. And by Al and Rudy wanting to go in and out and in then out the screen door, as if convinced their newfound outdoor-freedom will be revoked at any second, as if we will say, “Mwa-ha-ha, kitties! No, you cannot ever be free to eat grass again!”, and of course we won’t say that, but still Al and Rudy test and test and since my husband’s temporary desk has been the dining room’s kitchen-nookish, all-around, everything-lumped-on-it table, located quite near the screen door, my husband’s legs have received a workout from about 12,000 trips from chair to screen door in any five hour period. That’s right: 12,000.

More messing around

I confess it’s been nice to have the option of shouting for help when T has a blowout diaper. It’s been nice not to have to hold T and rip off his clothes and get the water running in the bath and bathe him and towel and dress and fix him meals while answering the continual ever-chirpy WHAZ IZ ZAT!!! OH WOW!!! WHAZ IZ ZAT!!! (A: your toe, a can opener, an olive, part of the ceiling, I have no idea what you’re pointing at) all by myself. It’s been nice to have my husband come galloping to the rescue (or sighing to the rescue) now and then. It’s been nice to have my husband take over in the early morning and spend quality daddy-son time while mommy (responding to a night of broken sleep) snores until 8am. They’ve had some important breakfasts together, followed by stroller rides to the dilapidated petting zoo way, way up the road, where they say good morning to the chickens in the trees and the big-bellied goats and pigs at the fence and T learns his animal noises firsthand. I confess: I’ve enjoyed having my husband at home, seeing his face when we return from playdates, passing him in the hallway at odd times during the day (Oh, hi! Hi! How are ya! See ya later in the kitchen!) having him join us for lunch—or make lunch. It’s been grand.

Ah ha…

But as of tomorrow, it’s another change—and I’m ready! Early to bed. That’s my motto. So I’m up 3 to 5 times in the night—if I’m snoozing by 10pm, I still might log 7 hours of sleep. I have waffles, fruit and other tempting breakfast items. My jogging shoes are by the door, the stroller standing by on the porch. And T and I have a morning appointment at a local toddler preschool for a tour.

Mwa-ha-ha cat!

Toodler preschool (said with awe, a gulp, a sudden shudder and a panicked tear in the eye).

Le Bond!

Oh yes. As the last of August wings ungracefully into the ether, change is definitely on its way. Hello, Reseda dawn. Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on.

Knock On Wood…

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Checking in with my dear friends Moot Mommy and Moot Daddy, I was thrilled to be told that despite this country’s wimpering economy, despite California’s manic-depressive State’s budget, despite Julia Roberts starring in Eat, Pray, Love, despite anything on the downswing anywhere in the world, Moot Daddy secured himself a new position in a great company.


Upon receiving the news via her cell phone, Moot Mommy shook off the plastic potato chips, hamburger buns and Thanksgiving turkey her son had placed on her legs and lap and shoulders and she went to the freezer, pulled out the tub of Chocolate Sundae ice cream and polished it off. “Because,” she told me, “now we can afford to buy more.”


Poor Moot Mommy is a little delirious. Moot Daddy’s necessary and zealous quest for new employment and his juggling of a small slew of freelance jobs has meant a lot of 24/7 togetherness-time for Moot Mommy and the toddler. She’s at the point now—after maaany nights of broken sleep—where when she is asked, “OH WOW WHAZZ IZ ZAT!!!” for the 20th time in two minutes, she responds, “That’s a thing that things ride in to get to things and it makes sounds.” Or, “That? That’s a———huh——-riiiiiiiight——-let’s listen to some music…”


I asked Moot Mommy how she has made it through the past three months—apart from the help of caffeine and a plethora of mommy and me playdates. “How?” she responded with a large yawn, picking banana from her hair and watching her son water the chaise longue. “Well—against many odds we got this house. When things looked dark, we hung in, took a lot of deep breaths and mostly—apart from a couple of Moot Mommy meltdowns—mostly solidly believed that the universe was more than willing to provide for us,” Moot Mommy said, watching her son drag the hose to the playhouse and water it. “Same for the past few months of our time as The Unemployed, our gig as Statistics, our turn living with the Great Unknown. We’ve said many thanks for tremendous blessings and agreed to enjoy life and the ever-quickening growth of our little boy–despite the employment situation. I mean—if this house can happen for us, anything can happen for us, good things,” Moot Mommy said. I nodded and sipped the lemonade Moot Mommy had poured for me. It desperately needed sugar. “Huh,” I remarked, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sound like this before, Moot Mommy. So—bottom-line positive?” Moot Mommy shot me a wry look. “That’s because,” she said, watching her son water his swingset, “before this,” she said, gesturing broadly to include the house and the yard and the woodpecker rapping the strangely beautiful dead tree behind us, “I was only moot. Now? I. Am. More than. Also,” she added, “life and death issues tend to invade your thoughts constantly when you have a child. I’m very grateful to be thriving with Moot Daddy and that soaked urchin over there watering the soccer ball. As a family, we’ve only just begun.”

As you may know, Moot Mommy is a keeper-of-the-flame for Karen Carpenter’s songs. I knew that behind her sunglasses, behind her blue-eyes-tinged-with-a-stricken-gray, somewhere in that sleep deprived brain of hers, Moot Mommy was humming that tune.

We’ve only just begun, la, la, hoo, ha, la, laaaaa…

Home sweet Home

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.

Real Life…

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009


Two days in a row I carted us to a place on my beach: unpeopled, sand a sheet of fresh powder, pleasantly cliff-backed—meaning fragrant chaparral and birdsong. The ocean both days: sun-smitten, dive-bombed by pelicans, a mother of all blues, an island standing in as immediate horizon—arcing ocher land softly filtered through a morning’s lazy, leftover fog.

Two days in a row I had the beach experience with my son I’d been waiting for him to grow into: respecting and playing with the tide vs. helter skelter lemming behavior, exploring beach vs. fixating on the umbrella or eating sand, using rocks and driftwood as tools for creating. At the close of our romps and exploring, I changed him into dry clothes, loaded him and everything else back into the jogging stroller and headed not for the parking lot, but farther up the beach, into vaguely sky-slipping sun, just for a bit, as he worked on a ricecake and kept his head turned left, left, his eyes on the sea (thrilling me).

The morning of our departure for Los Angeles, we returned to the beach and walked aimlessly in semi-fog. I sipped a venti-half-caf and he munched pumpkin bread, halting to gesticulate wildly at the low tide, or gulls. For once, in July, we wore sweaters, jeans instead of shorts with our sandals. That air, flushed by salt breezes, never fails to ease his night-wakings. Breathe, baby, breathe, I thought.

Two hours later we were back in dry, molten heat, the main water line from our house to the city hookup on the sidewalk creating a fine, cascading rain in summer’s scald. My husband was speaking to plumbers tramping the front yard scratching their heads over the useless pipe and reformulating original estimates, and my husband was speaking to plumbers coming in through the Bluetooth curling Star Trek style around his ear. I hurried inside, but our bathroom, also a victim of plumbing disorders, was dismantled. I had to pee desperately and was told to use the garden and just then I discovered that my cat of 17 years was, apparently, dying: A troubled meow, then more, like a cavern’s echo’s despair.

The water stayed off for the next 24 hours. The vet: called and seen. Various estimates came, altered, went. My son refused to nap, hyped on heat and domestic chaos, all sea breezes memories, only, if that. When everything happens at once, where does the cool come from? Through it all, my husband and I exchanged glances, shrugged—his turn to argue, my turn to weep worry, aware, of course, always, of our boy, his 20 month old sensors ON, working overtime. I found out how it is to slip into a room’s closet, escaping radar, running away out of a sense of protection. Still, he found me. Mama, he said, tugging open the double doors, excited and curious. Mama.

How everything can happen at once. The arrival of water, a grandmother for my son’s delight, and, within minutes, my cat’s demise. Give her sugar water from an eyedropper, the vet suggested, and I did and that was the end of my cat. 17 years done. Over. When I see the world and do not see my girl…Sorry, Lady Gregory, for the drastic substitution.

I took a shower—not because I was afraid of her death on my skin, but because I am always afraid for my son. The shower thundered out water, the sound appropriate, song-like, also torture. Later, my husband and I buried her under the potato vine. I despaired: Why must a move UP, why must a good change, why must one huge positive mean a sacrifice? Don’t overthink it, my husband suggested. I turned away from the grave, saw the hummingbird feeder needed refilling, the roses begging for a drink, patchy grass suffering. I saw my mother in the house with my son, reading, or read to. A plane muttered overhead. Heat persisted like a warning ache, persistently melting perimeters. Always that heat. So late in the day for so many metaphors. I placed a garden chair near the grave. I stayed close to her for a while. I probably prayed.

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.


Blog Braaaaaaake…

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Said in Sean Connery voice: I don’t know what day it is, damn you! I have been moving forever! Get. Me. My. Mother! Get me a chocolate-filled croissant—w/the Eiffel Tower! Then get me a Scotch Egg. Will this madness ever stop! Why is it so quiet in the suburbs? Ah—ack—I hear a dog’s bark. A little dog. Barking. Not a baby—a dog. A Scotch dog! Damn it! Now I’m hungry!