Tuesday, December 31, 2013


And I don't mean the carpet cleaner, neither. Though we've been using plenty of that the past two days.*

I'm writing this post for people who, as the year closes, find themselves surrounded by New Year's resolution-list-making-fools.

Here's the thing: I don't believe in resolutions.  Not really.  At least, not the ambiguous ones like, "work out more," "spend less," "learn to let go."  Sure...  Tell me how that works out for you.

See, in my professional life, we teach folks that goals have to be incremental, achievable, and measurable in order for them to be "good" goals.  Good goals would be things like, "work out once or more per week," "save $100 per month for vacation spending."  

If you don't define them like that, the bar is insanely low (I worked out ONCE this year, which was more than last year!) or completely un-check-offable.  Like "learn to let go." Ugh.  Just...  Ugh.

That's one of those twee-meant-to-be-empowering sentiments, like "live life out loud!" and "learn to put myself first sometimes." These are things that, to me, feel like an awful-behavior excuse cloaked in a credo. "Sorry you want me to read you a story, sweetie -- Mama's gotta go to the bar again 'cause I'M PUTTING MYSELF FIRST LIKE I'M SUPPOSED TO!' 

Where was I?  Oh, right...

Lists don't work for me. Resolution lists feel like my online shopping experiences at Gap.com.  I fill my cart with everything I could possibly imagine wearing.  Then, I look at the thirty-three items and the $800 tally and think, "Okay, these two things.  These are all I really need."

Vision boards? Those just seem like arts & crafts projects.  Putting a picture of the Eiffel tower on a cork board is not going to get me to Paris. Honestly, just ask my freshman-year roommate at Georgetown.  There I was, at my #1 choice of school, thrilled to be there.  My mind was challenged and engaged by my courses, and I fell in with a pack of theater nerds who had *also* watched Monty Python's oeuvre in its entirety. Joy! And my roommate?  Lovely girl, but absolutely dolorous over the fact that she hadn't been able to go to Oxford (because she didn't want to take the extra year to do her A-levels and fall behind her friends, year-wise).  So, in what struck me as a particularly effusive sour grapes episode of vision-boarding, she papered her side of the cinder block dorm cube with postcards of Cambridge.  Which she also did not attend.

My point is, the wish lists are the easy part for me.  The challenge is wanting something enough to create a blue print for how to get from the wanting to the having.  Not that my blue prints are solid.  Nope.  My blue prints generally look like Georges Seurat painted them.  Step back about twenty feet and I can see what's happening.  Up close though?  Kind of a dotty mess. That's OK, though, because ultimately, if I can see the whole picture, then I'm probably going to achieve it.  

At any given time, I have blue prints for two or three goals that fall outside of my ongoing goals to be a kind wife, mother, and maintain gainful employment (all interrelated, of course).  Because, honestly?  That's all that fits in my wee brain space. 

Here are my current goals (okay, fine, its a list, but I swear that I actually have blue prints and outlines and quite possibly footnotes for each):

1) Publish a short story.  Not self-published, and not through my current employer.  But through some sort of third-party:  a periodical, an anthology, a contest.  I'm hungry for that validation.

2) Work with my brothers/sisters to clear out and sell our parents' home.  There's no urgency to this since my parents were totally fiscally awesome and owned their home and left an unfathomable estate that will cover the expenses of maintaining it for awhile.  But as long as we have that home in our names, I feel a cloud hanging over us.  It doesn't offer comfort. It offers work, and sadness, and a huge blog post in which I sift through all of the feels I have about it.  Which leads me to...

3) Blog weekly.  I stopped doing this in 2013.  I know why.  My learning technique, my processing technique, is to write it down.  Always has been.  And I did not want to process this year.  I wanted to be numb.  I wanted to fold up the sadness, the missing, the hurting, into a neat little origami crane and stuff it way, way, way down where maybe it would just disappear and I wouldn't ever have to actually go through any of those feelings.  Unfortunate side effect to trying not to feel things:  it blocks up all of your other creative flow.  So that novel I've been working on for two years?  I'm only just finishing it. And oh, the editing it will need.  But the more-regular blogging will hopefully clear the blockage.

*My youngest and my husband either came down with a stomach virus procured at one of the fine rest stops along the Cleveland to Baltimore highways and byways, or should not have eaten that many of my reduced fat potato chips during the Ravens-Bengals game on Sunday.  It's kind of a toss up.  GET IT?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

So Stupid (Holiday Edition)

I'm only two Christmas cards into my list of approximately eleven thousand (because, big family) and I've already shed my first tears.  I brilliantly decided to combine my holiday missives with my thank-yous to those who reached out to me via cards, e-mails, or visits when my Dad died.

And by brilliant, I mean stupid.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Time to go medicate with some red wine, I guess.  But before I do, I should note that I have no expectations for this season.  I will put on my game face, and I do have some lovely visits and celebrations planned to which I am unabashedly looking forward.  And,I  know that I will enjoy them.  But there will be moments when the reality surfaces, like styrofoam in water, that I am an orphan. That my parents are gone, and that the family norm must once again be re-set.

So, if I need to disappear...  If I need some quiet time... If I spend an excessive time in the bathroom...  Please know that it's not personal.  Or outrageous bowel trouble.  I just need some time to gather myself before I return in good humor and smiles.

Friday, November 15, 2013

For the Love of Sci-Fi


There's just been too much lately.  Too much fun, too much sad, too much excitement, too much booze, too much commitment, too much anxiety, too much work, too much TV, too much PTA, too much writing...

I can't really distill life events when my mental still is flooded with...  Too much.  So, let me start...

Today, I deposited the checks for my share of my Dad's life insurance payout.  What a mindf*ck.  Yay!  The equivalent of what I net in a half a year!  That's awesome!  And I have this money...  Because my Dad died.

I took out some cash from the deposit.  Not a lot.  Just a little.  And I took my kids and my sister to the Maryland Science Center.

See, my Dad was a child of science fiction.  He was born in its Golden Age.  His shelves were thick with Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Ray Kurtzweil, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne, Aldous Huxley, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, Ursula K. Leguin, and hundreds of other lesser-known authors.  He had two replicas of the Starship Enterprise in his bedroom (which I'm sure my mother loved).

Did I tell you about the time when I was a seven and my Dad invited me to go to the movie theater to see 'Bladerunner'?  (I nearly went.  Mom tempted me to stay home with ice cream and potato chips, a rare treat in our family.)

One time, my husband (who shares my Dad's love of sci-fi), asked my Dad if there was anything that danced on those thousands of pages in his den that he was disappointed hadn't yet come to fruition.  My Dad thought about it for a second, sighed, and said, "I really thought we'd be living on the moon by now."

Sorry.  That got a bit jumbled.

My point is, my father loved all things science.  He was fascinated by how things worked.  So, it seemed like a good use of what I consider to be his money on a pursuit that he would have supported.  The kids loved it.  My sister loved it.  We toured the standing exhibits, then explored the current exhibit about Mummies (which is AWESOME).  That's a separate post, I think, because there's some hilariousness there.

Speaking of separate posts... I have to write about what it's like to gain from my parents' deaths, when all I really want is for them to have had more time. Don't let me forget to do that.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Stupid Outlook

I logged into my Outlook calendar this morning to see what was on tap for this week.  I noticed a personal appointment that needed to be flipped to the following week.  So, I meandered over to the next week, and boom. October 7, I was scheduled to take my Dad to a routine follow-up visit at the Wilmer Eye Clinic. Guess I have to call them to let them know that he's passed away.

Fun way to start the week.  Oh, wait.  By fun I mean depressing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dealing with Condolences

So, people are kind. They are sending heartfelt messages, lovely cards, gorgeous flowers. For this I am grateful.  I cannot say I handle the expressions of sympathy with grace. I try. I well up, but the tears don't actually spill. The sympathizers don't feel they've poured salt in an open wound. I think. I hope.

Anyway, before I launch into this next Tale of Wha-huh?, let me please make it clear that I am so very grateful for any/all acknowledgements of my father's passing.

Tonight, I went to a PTA meeting.  What?  You can be cool and an officer on the board of the PTA. At the conclusion of the meeting, the teacher liaison, who happens to have been my daughter's kindergarten teacher, who also happens to be my neighbor (yay, Smalltimore!), approached me.

"I just wanted to say, I'm so sorry," she said, touching my arm.

She said this without preamble, but I wasn't confused. There is only one thing about which people express their sorries to me these days.

"Thank you so much," I respond. What I can't figure out, what makes me wrack my brain, is how she knew my father had passed away.

"[Your daughter] told me about your father, and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I met him." Her eyes went all shiny.

It was all I could do not to wrinkle my brow. She met him? When? Since my mother passed away, my father didn't really get out and about.  He came over to my house for some events, though not many.  He came to one of my daughter's dance recitals, but that had nothing to do with school.  So where did my neighbor meet my father?

Oh, wait.

She's thinking of my father-in-law.

This occurs to me about three minutes into our conversation.  What do I do here? Do I tell her she's thinking of the wrong guy? That her near-tears are for a fella that she actually never met?  Or do I just try to keep my father-in-law hidden the next time he visits so that she doesn't think some kind of wraith walks the earth?  Or, just let it go, and let her be weirded out and figure it out for herself if she sees my father-in-law sauntering around our yard in months/years to come?

That last one.  That's what I'm going to do.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When My Mother Was Terminally Ill, She Said My Dad Would Only Last Six Months Without Her

She shared this with me as she pointed out where they kept their wills.  She was wrong (to her eternal consternation, I'm sure). He lasted nearly three years without her.

My Dad died on August 18, 2013.  At home, in his sleep, without fanfare.  It is, I think, how he would have wanted it.  Really, goddamn, isn't that how we all want it?  The ultimate Irish Goodbye.

I'm so sad. I loved him so very much, and haven't absorbed the myriad ways in which his gone-ness will impact me.  But, some truth:  since my mother passed away, my father has repeatedly said he was 'despondant.' He would also tell me that he thought he was very clever, marrying a woman thirteen years his junior, cementing (in his mind) the notion that she would outlive him, and take care of him in his dotage.

When that didn't happen, when she got sick, it threw him for a loop.  I remember hugging him as he sobbed -- for only a half a second -- in the waiting room when the doctors said that the sample they'd extracted from her innards confirmed small cell lung cancer.  It claimed her five months later, just as the stats said it would.

He never really recovered.  He put on a brave face, and was there for my mother in every way.  But they were so entwined, so thoroughly enmeshed in each other, that when she died, he didn't know how to be.

I don't fault him for this.  That's love.  Pure, unadulterated adoration.  She was gone, he was done (in spirit).  The week before he died, his heart rate was elevated.  We weren't sure why.  We took him to see his doctors (geriatric specialists at Hopkins) twice that week.  They ran tests, drew blood, and gave him the all clear (with scheduled return visits for monitoring).

But then he died in his sleep.

He was 82.  This is not tragic, in the grand scheme of things.  But he was my father, the man who sang 'reveille' to me to wake me up for school; who walked me to school while whistling complicated scales; who read to me and my younger brother every night, asking us to 'stay sweet'; who embraced scatological humor at the dinner table; who read us 'the funnies' in the morning when they made him chuckle; who taught me how to wield a hammer to frightening effect; who gave me a wildly expensive camera when I was thirteen because it was a shared interest; who listened to my plea to go to art camp while he was bedridden and recovering from a hernia operation; who picked me up from a bazillion after-school events; who, despite initially greeting my husband by the incorrect 'Jake,' went on to have endless sci-fi conversations with him (which only makes sense since he was born on the cusp of a golden age of comics and science fiction); who knelt down and played on the floor with all of my children, and delighted in their every milestone.  This man who loved me, who would help me whenever I asked, whom I was helping as he grew older...  He's just gone.  And I am bereft. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Parenting Milestone

I had a kid over for dinner who has a lethal peanut allergy, and I didn't kill him!

Am I (neighborhood) mother of the year, or what?

Some of my nephews have really bad allergies, so they are not a foreign concept to me (the allergies, I mean; not the nephews).  The boys have eaten at my house plenty of times, and I didn't kill them either.  But, their mother -- my sister -- is usually around, and I'm able to ask her, "Hey -- Fleischmann's margarine doesn't have peanuts in it, right?"

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my former peanut-free hosting duties were a little...  Lazy.  Lazy is what they were.  Sure, I'd read food labels for the obvious stuff, but I'd still thrust the package at her to make sure I didn't miss something.  I had back-up.  She'd tell me if that chicken bouillon is no good, or if that sauce is a problem.

In a play date situation, though, the other parent hands you an epi-pen and waves buh-bye.  His Dad does not stick around to serve as a safety inspector.  You have to make sure that the hamburger buns aren't manufactured in a facility that also handles nuts, and that you scrub the table where your daughter ate a deadly, deadly peanut butter sandwich a mere eight hours earlier, and then you have to give your husband the stink eye because he made her that sandwich when he KNEW a kid with a peanut allergy was coming over later (and sometimes kids drop food on tables then pick up that food and put it in their mouths), and you have to buy special desserts like these because you can't be sure that any of the other desserts you already have in the pantry are OK because you threw out the packaging during your weekend organizational/purge frenzy, and (deep breath) you have to stare at the kid's mouth like a felon to watch for any hive breakouts.

It is only when the kid finishes his meal, eating mostly the gobs of fruit you heaped upon it, and disappears into the basement to play, that you can breathe.


Monday, July 15, 2013


Today, the Boy is nine. NINE. We are mercilessly careening toward double-digits. Ah, who am I kidding.  I'm not really worried about him morphing into some hairy were-teen or anything like that.

It seems to obvious to articulate, but I love this boy, and his sister, and his brother, and their father, with all that I am.  So many, many times I think to myself, "I am so grateful for this life."  We are well, we are stable, we are together, we have a home, we have food, we have easy access to antibiotics.  We flop all over each other, unafraid to request a cuddle.  We make each other laugh.  Most of all, best of all, we aren't chintzy with the hugs and the kisses and the 'I love yous.'

We enjoy each other.

This has been my life for...  For always, actually.  My childhood, my family, was like this.  My dating and engagement and marriage has been like this.  It's only natural that the family that proceeds from my husband and me results in the same.

It has to be said that we also get on each other's nerves, but, you know, this is supposed to be an ode to the boy.

The boy, at nine, is a prize. His chief interests right now, in no particular order, are:

(1) Growing his hair.  I've told you my policy on this, right?  While it kills me that he looks like a greaser whereas I am more of a soc, I am fairly confident that he will lose his hair in his early twenties. I promised myself that I'd allow him to wear it however he wanted to wear it while he has it.
(2) Baseball.  He likes sports, he likes math.  Baseball is all about stats, so, my only question is: why did he not discover this sooner?
(3) 'Radioactive' by Imagine Dragons.  If you haven't watched the video, you really, really must.  Trust me on this.
(4) Riding his bike (WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS).  This particular feat was a loooooong time coming, and finally FINALLY came to pass during a two-week stay with his grandparents.  Seriously, I think my father-in-law willed this ability into existence.
(5) 'Kickin' It' from DisneyXD.  Unlike #3 up there, I can't really recommend this.  It's awful in the same way that most of these shows are awful.  Snipey, sarcastic kids; doofy adults; and situations that are wildly unlikely.  This probably makes it just like the stuff that I watched at his age.
(6) WWE:  He's still a big fan of wrestling.  I kind of am, too.  It will always have a special place in my heart, because this was the first thing that he brought to us.  Sure, he loved 'The Wiggles' with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns, but they happened to be on the channel that his daycare provider had on when he arrived in the morning.  If it had been, say, 'Barney,' I bet we would've gone to 'Barney' concerts with him.  Actually, I take that back. I would've paid someone to take him, but I just would not have been able to endure it.
(7) Water slides.  Swimming + rides = awesomeness.
(8) Lego.  The Boy still loves the Lego.  This may be a lifelong thing, like the Hulk is for my husband.  I may be buying Lego kits for every Christmas and birthday for the Boy.
(9) Being funny.  He prides himself on being part of the funny group of kids at school, and, truthfully, he makes us giggle all the time.  He doesn't prat fall or anything.  He just makes jokes.  A recent classic:

The Boy:  "Hey, Mom?  Why did  Tigger inspect the toilet?"
Me: "I don't know.  Why?"
The Boy:  "He was looking for Pooh!"

And on that note, I'll close this post.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sympathy Bargain Shoppers

I had to pick up a sympathy card a few days ago, so I stopped into a drugstore on my way to work.  Having been the recipient of a stack of sympathy cards when my mother passed away, I am actually kind of picky about the content.  I gravitate toward the ones that basically say, hey, I know this is an awful time, and I'm thinking of you. That's it.  Anything else just feels like you're trying to smooth over the recipient's loss.

So, there I was, sandwiched between the all-singing, all-dancing birthday cards, and the marshmallow fluff of the anniversary cards, when I saw it:  a twelve-pack 'value' assortment of sympathy cards.

How grim is that?

I spent the next couple of minutes thinking about the customer for that product.  Is it someone who is a planner by nature, knows a bunch of people who are ill, and wants to stock up?  Does that make them a realist?  Or a pessimist?  Is it someone who just sends sympathy cards at the drop of a hat?  Is it someone who doesn't really care what the message is, and they want to check the sympathy card from their to-do list as soon as possible?  Is it someone who fishes for a bargain in any pond?

I shook my head to clear the jumble of questions, picked out the very lovely card that was completely appropriate for the particular person for whom I purchased it, and checked out of the store.

But, I'm still thinking about that bundle...

Sunday, July 07, 2013


"Do you want to catch some fireflies with me?" asked my oldest, the words whistling over his grown-up front top teeth.  He's still not completely accustomed to their breadth, so his tongue hasn't figured out where to go to properly form his 's' sounds.  That, like all things, will come with time.

"Yes," I answered, unhesitatingly.  His younger brother was fast asleep in bed, and his sister was out gallivanting with his aunt.  It was just the two of us, which is not often the case.  We ventured outside, barefoot, with the Gladware container his Gram had butchered so that we could catch fireflies, and keep them without killing them.

The grass was soft under our feet, rendered so by the frequent showers that breezed through Cleveland since our arrival. I was already in my pajamas, as was the Boy.  He's nearly nine, which means he's morphing from a boy to a tween, and then a teen, and then an adult.  But he's only nearly nine; he's not in college yet, or experiencing heartache.  He's still my Boy.

"Oh! I caught one!" he breathed.

"Here," I said, peeling back the lid of the Gladware. "Pop him in here."

The Boy scraped the bug from his thumb and into the waiting plastic.

"Why isn't he lighting up?"

"Well," I leaned over the container, bumping heads with the Boy. "He might be kind of afraid.  But here, I'll add some leaves."  I slipped a few sprigs of green into the dish.  "There.  that should make him more comfortable."

"Maybe," the Boy drawled, "maybe we shouldn't put them in there.  Maybe we should just catch them and let them go?"

And that's what we did.  We ran around his grandparents' yard, in the deepening twilight, catching fireflies and throwing them back into the air. Between us, we must've caught about a hundred. We meandered our way around the side, admiring Gram's bountiful blooming garden, and found ourselves on the front porch.  We were headed to settle on the swing for a mother-son cuddle, when something caught the Boy's eye.

"Oh, Mom!" he said. "It's stuck!"

He'd discovered a firefly caught in a spider web. And proceeded to rescue it.  I helped him, and we scraped away as much of the web as we could before releasing the bug back to the garden.

And that's when I felt it, viscerally: no one will ever be good enough for him.

I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I meet his intended, but in that moment, he was the sweetest, kindest, dearest boy that ever there was, and I can barely imagine the person deserving of him.  I suspect all women feel like this about their kids, but the strength of this nearly took my breath away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Am So Squishy

Headline:  we moved our youngest to a more convenient daycare provider.

Here's the rational side of this story:

His previous daycare provider is wonderful.  As great as she is, though, the reality is that the Little Guy is the oldest kid in her regular care.  Basically, he's hanging around with babies all day.  This does not do wonders for his speech development.  He's very baby-talky.  Not uncommon for third children since the older siblings do most of the talking for him.  But, still.  There's some work to be done there.

Also? He's hitting some boundary-testing milestones, so it seemed a good time for his boundaries to be extended. This is accomplished by placing him in an environment where he has lots of new stuff to explore.

Lastly, this place, which is where the Girl went to Pre-K, is wildly convenient.  It's located on the college campus that abuts (hee!) our housing development, so it's a five-minute drive away (as opposed to twenty-five).

Win-win-win, as far as we are concerned.

Here's the utterly irrational aspect of it:

"Are you ready for your first day of school?" I asked.  I unbuckled the Little Guy from his car seat, sliding the pieces of chest harness apart so that he could hop down and step out of the car.

Okay, fine, it isn't really his first day of school, but they have a curriculum for the three-year-old room.  They may only learn by osmosis, but that's OK.  This transition is about more socialization, a bigger environment, and convenience.  If he picks up some spelling, that's cool too.

He stood next to me, clasping his hands together.

"Don't go anywhere, sweetie.  Let me get your backpack."

I grabbed the strap of the blue book bag, embroidered with our last name.  It is a hand-me-down from the Boy, who, as a recently-graduated third grader, prefers a black-and-silver affair with approximately forty-seven pockets, one of which is for a laptop.  The Boy does not have a laptop, but I guess he's planning ahead.

The Little Guy turned away from me so that I could slip the padded straps over his shoulders.  Stuffed with his nap time blanket and travel pillow, the backpack was enormous.  He looked like an astronaut circa 1969.  Well, except for the helmet and the suit.  But, it's the same backpack-to-person ratio. Theirs had jet propulsion.  His contains fleece.

"Mom? Which way do I go?" he asked. He wasn't looking at me. He was staring at the low rise of the brick building in front of us, like an English Pointer that has locked onto game.

"Straight ahead, buddy. Wait for me on the sidewalk."

He took off, bounding to the pavement as fast as his dimpled legs could carry him. As soon as he got to the sidewalk, he stopped again.  Swiveling his head back and forth, he called, "Mom? Which way?"

"Keep going straight, right up to the doors."

He took off again, the backpack patting him on the back as he bounced toward the door. I hustled behind him, carrying his lunch, his changes of clothes (because, you know, three-year-olds), and we crossed the threshold into his first day in a bigger world.  As I talked to the room teacher, and we unpacked his backpack into his cubby, he stayed close.  Not because he was scared, but because the guinea pig cage is right next to the cubbies.

"That's a bunny!" he exclaimed.  My Little Guy has this sweet little Mona Lisa grin that plays upon his lips when he's happily entranced by something.  He gets that way when he is playing with some Bubble Guppies figurines, or, most recently, the Girl's Barbie Squinkies.

"That's a guinea pig, pal." He'd never seen a guinea pig before that morning. I know. We deprive him of all of the awesome stuff out there.  Like rodents.

"He's eating!" he giggled.

"Is he?"

"He had a drink of water! With his mouth!" he giggled some more.

During this live commentary of Mr. Guinea Pig's breakfast routine, the room teacher was very kindly reassuring me that they have other picky eaters in the class (Little Guy isn't always picky. There are just some days where he decides he will subsist on milk and goldfish and air.).

Once we we'd unpacked his things, his room teacher led him to the area where the other kids in his 'class' were playing.  The play space was anchored by a Rubik's Cube-patterned carpet.  Toys were sprinkled over the colored squares, one of which was a Thomas the Tank Engine figure.

"Mom! I found Thomas!" the Little Guy held it up to me like he'd found the Holy Grail.

"Are you going to play with him?"


And so he did.  I watched him run Thomas up and down a track for a few minutes.  He seemed very happy, very at ease.  So, I said, "Okay, buddy, can you come give me a hug goodbye?"

Little Guy marched right over, still clutching Thomas, and said, "Buh-bye!" Then he hopped back to his spot in the middle of the carpet.

And, tears, huge pools of tears welling, threatening to spill.  Mine, not his.  I had to blink jackhammer-fast to keep those tears firmly on the correct side of my eyelids.  Him?  He was stoked to have a fresh Thomas to play with.  Me?  I had just taken my youngest to the next station in his life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Pulled a Tick Off Of My Daughter This Morning; How Was Your Day

"Are you almost ready for me to brush your hair, sweetie?"

"Yes," the Girl calls from the other side of the open closet door.  She was sitting on the floor, strapping her shoes to her feet. All I could see from my vantage point were Hello Kitty sparkles winking in the morning light.

She stood, shut the door, and skipped past me toward the bathroom.  Currently, she sports a squiggly crop of hair that defies taming.  Think young Merida, except blonde.

"What do you want today?  Ponytail? Floppy ponytails? Braided bun?" I asked, pulling the brush, detangler spray, and myriad elastics from the Drawer for Such Things.

"Pigtails!" she yelled.

Pigtails it would be.

I liberally sprayed her hair with the detangler, caught up a hank of it, and dragged the brush through it.  She screwed up her face in truly gymnastic ways, entertaining herself as I worked my way through her hair.  Because of the ariadnic (yes, I made that up) way that my daughter's hair knots itself together, I can't get the tangles out in one stroke.  Nope, I have to work at the tangles, layer by layer.  It isn't arduous -- the whole thing takes about five minutes.  But, it is a process.

Anyway, I brushed the hair back from her temples to the fistful that would become the pigtail.  And that's when I noticed the dark spot over her ear. A tick.  And not the cool kind, either.  It was small, and a little engorged, so it had been there for a little while.

This is one of those moments where you know if you freak out or make a big deal out of something, it's going to make the whole removal process much, much more dramatic than it needs to be.  So, I finished with the pigtails.  As soon as the elastic was wrapped around that second pigtail, I said, "Sweetie?  I just noticed something  next to your ear, and it's a tick. I have to remove it, and it'll only take a second, but I've done this before for you* and I'm very good at it."

"Oh." The Girl wrinkled her brow and frowned.  "Is it going to hurt?"

"Maybe a little," I answered. "But it will mostly be a weird tugging.  It'll be okay. Just hang on."

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel, some olive oil, and a sealable plastic bag. I went back to the bathroom, and my daughter looked even more concerned than she had before. She's only six, so I was kind of surprised that the wailing and the gnashing hadn't started.

"Ready?" I asked.  Before she had a chance to answer, I doused a small portion of the paper towel in oil, pinched it around the tick, and pulled.  It came right out, no problem. I dropped it into the bag, sealed it up, and took a look at it's creepy crawly self.  Which, why was  doing that?  I don't have a database of tick pictures in my head.  I can't tell a deer tick from a deer.

I resolved to compare it to pictures online later.  Lyme Disease, which is spread by the deer tick, is no joke. One of my brothers suffers from it, and his joints are perma-achy.

But, she was a trooper, wanting mostly to inspect the bug and then discuss the traits it shares with vampires.  There were no tears, and only a little flinching when I put the smear of antibiotic ointment on the bite mark.

Sniff.  My little girl is growing up so fast.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Apparently, My Children Think I'm a Drug Addict

The following is a transcription of the conversation I had with my older two children during bedtime last night.  Context:  they were having a 'sleepover.' This means that they bunk down in the pullout couch in the basement and watch kid-friendly Netflix 'til they pass out, which is about twenty minutes after they would normally fall asleep.

Here we go...

Me: [Boy], where's your blanket?

Boy: I don't have one.

Me: You need a blanket -- go grab one from the linen closet in the bathroom.

Boy: Okay.  (37 seconds pass.)  Mom? I can't find one.

Me:  You owe me a dollar if I can find a blanket in less than a minute. (I march toward the bathroom.)

Boy: Oh, I found one!

Me:  (looking at the blanket he selected) Aw, that's the one that Grandmom crocheted for you when you were a baby. I always think that when you snuggle with a blanket that she made for you, it's sort of like she's giving you a hug.

(The Boy skips over to the bed, flumps down, and drapes the blanket over himself.)

Girl (having overheard the conversation between the Boy and me): Mom, I miss Grandmom. But, (shrugging her shoulders as though she is a preternaturally mature teenager in a late-80's sitcom), she got sick because of smoking*, and all of the drugs.

Me: WHAT? (Laughing). Grandmom didn't do drugs. What do you know about drugs, anyway?

Girl:  Well, she drank beer, and alcohol is a drug.

Me: (Wishing Baltimore County Public Schools was a little more circumspect in how they group together drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. And also trying to figure out how to tease out the differences between beer and, say, heroin, without undermining what the kids are learning in school.) Listen, guys, I know that school teaches that alcohol is a drug...

Boy: You do drugs every night!


Girl: You drink wine.

Boy: Yeah, there are like, five wine bottles on the kitchen counter every night.

Me: No! No there are not. There's a bottle of wine. One. Listen, I drink wine, but it's not the same as drugs.

Girl: (Shrugging again) Well, wine is a drug.

Me:  (Sighing. Heavily.) Okay. Good night!

(Hugs and kisses, followed by mama having a glass of wine.)

*I have been honest with my kids that my mother developed lung cancer as a result of a fifty-year smoking habit. I don't want them to smoke. They should know what it does, and the kind of pain it causes.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Is Hard

Is that title too subtle?  I've been accused of being overly subtle before.  Anyway...

On Thursday, I popped into Target before heading into the office. I needed to pick up a pack of boys' undershirts for my daughter's kindergarten art project, and due to a ridiculously busy work schedule, this was the only time I could do it.  That was the only thing I needed*, but, I ended up snaking through the aisles picking up odds and ends because, well, Target.

After fifteen minutes, I'd loaded my basket with bathing suits for the kids (because they always run out of their sizes by June, no matter what their sizes are), Scooby Doo underpants that I will use as a bribe for the Little Guy (who is showing ZERO interest in using the potty), and some shredded fruit & veggie gummy snacks that I am hoping will appeal to the kids.  They have a serious addiction to the toxic sugar bomb version of fruit snacks, and I can just HEAR the things clawing cavities into their teeth.

The clock was ticking, though, and I had to get to the office. I headed toward the checkout, which is located across from the greeting card selection.  There were a bunch of people buzzing around the section.  Weird, right?

And then it hit me...

Mother's Day.  This is the annual ritual of last-minute card shoppers, elbowing each other away from THE PERFECT blend of flowers and puppies and acrostics.

I don't have a card to buy, or a phone call to make, or a Sunday brunch to plan.  I mean, I do, for my mother-in-law, who is possibly the best mother-in-law to have when it comes to feeling like an adopted daughter.  But the only way that I have of honoring the woman who soothed me when I was sick, who made me my favorite dinners on my birthdays, who hugged me so hard that I didn't think I could breathe sometimes, is to take flowers to her resting place.  And to write this, to make it known how much she meant, and continues to mean, and how much I miss her.

Mother's Day for me, for the next few years (I think) will be longing for my mother. I will bask in the nice things that my kids do for me, and for the cards and the seedlings and the traced hand prints.  But I think, for awhile, there will be this shadow over it, because I will not be doing the same thing for someone else.

*needed = had to be acquired by a certain deadline, not that a child would strut around nude without this particular purchase.  

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Either I've Emotionally Scarred My Oldest Kid, or He's Learned a Valuable Life Lesson

My oldest kid, the Boy, is nearly nine.

Which, by the way: huh?  Am I really on the cusp of buying deodorant for one of my kids?

Anyway, he's not very athletically inclined.  Don't get me wrong -- the kid is lean, and loves to run around, and he's certainly not clumsy.  He just doesn't seem to want to play an organized sport.  

Herm.  Come to think of it, I was the same way, actually.  I never felt a burning desire to go out for a team, but I was capable.  I never embarrassed myself on the field or the court.  Ooh, except for tennis.  My best friend was very good at tennis, and she would beg me to practice with her. I hit the ball out of the gigantic tennis cage Every. Single. Time.  She actually got better practice out of hitting the ball against a wall than she did with me.

He tried theater when he was four (did not enjoy) and soccer when he was six, which was just okay. His soccer friends moved on from the rec league to a travel league, and the Boy didn't want to do that. He didn't want to play baseball or basketball, and we vetoed football because we did not want him to be squashed by the ten-year-olds who can shave.  We've looked at some community college classes for kids, but they seem primarily designed (schedule-wise) for home-schooled kids.

And then!  Then our local rec sports created a youth track team.  Bingo!  He likes to run and, while there's a team aspect to it, the players run individually.  Seemed like a good fit, right?  It would be a time suck -- 3 practices a week, plus the occasional meet.  But it would be worth it, because he would be Out There Doing Something.  The Boy agreed, enthusiastically, to sign up.

He liked it for the first week.  The second week was OK too.  That third week, though?  Oof.  The third week involved a meet.  And waiting, waiting, waiting for his one event at that meet.  So much waiting, in fact, that I did not get to seem him race because after two hours of waiting for his event, I had to bail and the Girl and the Little Guy back home so that they would not continuing torturing the other parents with their (understandable) whining about sitting in the cold aluminum stands.

After the meet, the Boy declared that he wanted to quit track.

This is the first time we've really had to deal with quitting. With theater and soccer, he just didn't go back after he finished out his first season. Track, though, was something he didn't want to spend another night doing. 

Personally, I struggle with the concept of quitting. It was part of the fabric of my upbringing that You Don't Quit.  My mother had deep dark conversations with my father at the dinner table about her work grievances, and she stayed at that job for twenty years. So maybe it's actually part of the fabric of my DNA, and not just my upbringing.

Anyway, I don't want my kids burdened with unnecessary tenacity.  Jobs, and relationships for that matter, are not indentured servitude.  You can walk away from something you don't enjoy. But there's a respectable way to go about doing it.  There are gradations, of course.  You don't quit a job because you had one bad conversation with your boss.  Or maybe you do?  I don't know.  Remember: I am not good a quitting.

The deal was this: he would be allowed to quit track if HE was the one who did the quitting.  I would not quit for him, and his father would not quit for him.  If he wanted to stop going to track, then he would actually need to share this information with his coach.

I didn't make this deal as some passive-aggressive way to get him to stick with track.  Frankly, the administration of my family life is a lot easier without track practice lumped into it.

No, the intent here was for him to learn how to be his own agent of change, even if it means (potentially) hurting someone's feelings. You need to rehearse that stuff in your childhood just as much as you do reading, math, and manners.  Mostly, I don't want him to grow up thinking it's cool to slink away and leave people mystified as to where he went.  Or worse, have authority figures (Mom and Dad) handle uncomfortable stuff for him.

So, last night, and the end of practice, he ambled over to his coach and said, "Um, I want to thank you for being my coach, and for teaching me about running, but I'm not going to come to track anymore."

"Oh," his coach said. "Okay. Are you going to do something else?"

"No," the Boy said, "I just wanted to spend more time at home."

"Okay, well, you're a good runner, and good luck.  Give me a high five!"

They high-fived, and that was it.  I think it should be noted that we did not script this out for him.  He came up with that on his own.

After he and my husband came home, and the Boy ran over to a neighborhood friend's house for an hour.  That's all he wants right now:  unencumbered time. I'm good with that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So. Much. Work.

I am being (slightly) crushed by the volume of work I have on my plate these days.  Big project + impending (nay, looming, tsunami-like) deadlines = crushing.  I only wish I were as cool as Giles Corey.

But I'm not.

So, instead, I've been fantasizing about winning the lottery and/or my husband getting a promotion that would net out the differential in our income loss if I were to stop working.  Neither of these things is likely to happen this year.  End result? I will keep plugging along, 60-hours-a-week-style, 'til this thing is behind me.

Oh, how I yearn for the days of theater, when I knew opening night would be the end of my pain. The rough spots would appear in front of the audience, and would either be buffed out OR earn us some, ahem, interesting reviews.  Even with criticism, though, the thing would be DONE, released.  Not something to be refined and reworked ad infinitum.

Thank the sweet Lord we booked our vacation.  I can cling to that while I'm feeling overwhelmed.  Ah, the soothing, clarion call of the beach in July....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How I Spent My First (Real) Writing Earnings

"I would love a pisco sour," I answered our blade-thin waiter.

"Let me see," he looked up and to the left, almost rolling his eyes to the back of his head to possibly examine his brain for the information, "if we have everything we need to make that."

"Sure thing," I turned my attention back to my dining options. Our waiter cut through the dining room, heading for the bar area.

"Of course you order a drink they can't make," my husband snickered, his bright blue eyes twinkling as he glanced at me over the edge of his menu. "What exactly is a pisco sour?"

"It's a cocktail made with pisco, sour mix, and egg white.  I know there's something else in it, but I can't remember what." I shrugged, trying to evoke nonchalance.

No big deal, right? Except, this is one of the myriad stupid ways in which I judge myself. I think a girl should know the recipe for her cocktail. And since I don't know how to make any mixed drinks (at least, not well), I typically find myself ordering wine or beer. Or shots. But I got carried away because we were in a fancy-pants restaurant where we were about to drop three hundred dollars for a single meal. Which, come to think of it, means, it's pretty reasonable to expect that they'll have sufficient expertise and ingredients to craft a pisco sour.  Right?

A few minutes later, after we'd perused the menu, our waiter circled back around.

"It turns out," he grins, " that we didn't have everything we needed, so we sent someone down the street to one of our other restaurants to pick up a bottle of pisco. It should only be another couple of minutes."

"That's no problem," I said, happy they were able to work out a solution.

"Oh, you didn't have to do that," my husband said.

"Not at all," the waiter countered, smiling. "You should have the cocktail that you want. I just wanted to explain the delay."

"Thank you so much," I said, and the waiter disappeared again.

"They had to go to another restaurant!"

"I know," I laughed. "because I am a PRINCESS!"


That pisco sour?  She was STRONG.  And probably the best pisco sour I've had to date, and I have had FOUR of them.

Anyway, date night at Charleston was the ideal way to kiss (most) of my hard-earned writing dollars goodbye.  There was so much deliciousness involved...  amuse bouches, crawfish bisque, arugula and blood orange salad, pan-roasted tilefish, grilled squab, and a lemon chess tart.  And the company was unparalleled.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On 'Girls' and Glass

Do you watch HBO's 'Girls'? I do. And I enjoy. Though, I"m not sure why Lena Dunham gets all the backlash that she does...  Actually, I think I have an idea.  She's a twenty-six-year-old auteur (auteuse?).  She's the captain of her own (media) ship:  writer, director, national headliner. Covers of 'Entertainment Weekly,' even (YES, that is the bar by which I  measure success.) And she's a woman. Or a girl, anyway.

Yes, I think her sex plays a role in the backlash. Not exclusively. But, I don't exactly recall people insisting that Kevin Smith was just a lucky bastard when 'Clerks' came out.  He was about the same age as Lena Dunham was when 'Tiny Furniture' came out.

I don't think that's exclusively it.  That'd be too easy.  Some people also argue that since she's the kid of successful artist-types, she had a leg up.  Yeah, well, so does Rumer Willis (I'm not saying she won't be A-list some day, but she isn't right now).  The point is, having successful parents does not guarantee success for the child.  It sure as hell doesn't hurt, but something about 'Girls' struck a chord with a bunch of people.  Lena Dunham deserves kudos and recognition for that, no matter how she got there.

Weird. I don't know why I felt the need to become a Lena Dunham champion for twenty minutes of my life. I like the show, but I don't love it. I wouldn't miss it if it was gone.

I've been watching it because I have a small fascination with people-in-progress; people who are not self-actualized, but are on their way. People who are somewhat of a mess.  It might be schadenfreude.  I dunno.  But, I also watch the show because at least two of the characters remind me of people with whom I went to college, and that makes me giggle.

Okay, so there's your context for my experience with this show.

During the season 2 finale, the main character, Hannah, is having a bit of a breakdown. At one point, she says the following:

You know when you’re young and you drop a glass, and your dad says, like, “Get out of the way!” so you can be safe while he cleans it up? Well, now, no one really cares if I clean it up myself. No one really cares if I get cut with glass. If I break something, no one says, “Let me take care of that,” you know?

So, here's the thing with that quote. That quote? It is supposed to reveal a kind of a character chrysalis, where she's realizing that she's involuntarily shed a protective parental layer. Now she's all exposed to the elements, and she's having a hard time with that.

But, all it revealed to me is how much of a kid she still is.  I mean, there's some truth to what she says. A (good) parent, yes, does not want you to get hurt, does not want you to shred the bottom of your feet with broken glass.  But also?  As a parent?  I want to save myself the trouble of having to clean up broken glass AND deal with a screaming, bloodied child.  It's not just about safety and care and protection.  It's also about staying sane and not wanting to have to deal with another crisis that a young'un brings upon herself.

This is evidence to me that the character, Hannah, still has a ways to go in achieving adulthood.  What we do as parents?  It's not all about love.  Mostly it is.  But sometimes, it's about saving ourselves more work.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Business as Usual

For the past two years, I've been monitoring my Dad's finances.  My mother was the brains of the financials at their domicile, even with brain cancer.

Yes, you read that right.  My father is so skeeved out by bills that he let a woman with thirteen mini-masses on her brain handle the checkbook.  She was quite happy to do it, and it allowed her some sense of control at a time when she had anything but.

Anyway, about a year ago, I noticed some weird debits/checks written against his account.  So, I've gradually just straight-up taken over my Dad's finances.  Not to the extent where he gets allowances or anything like that.  He still has a checkbook, ATM card, and all that jazz.  I mean, the man worked for sixty-five years. He can spend his money how he likes.  (Well, except for those sweepstakes things that he didn't realize were scammy situations, which is what precipitated my more aggressive role in all of this.)

On Friday, I deposited some checks for him.  He and my mother had a bunch of investments (which he still currently has, obvi), and bitty checks roll in on a continual basis. My mother's name is still on some of them, though, which is something I suspect will be left to me to deal with because my Dad's just not motivated to close loops like that.  I don't blame him.

The teller called out, "May I help the next person in line?"

I stepped forward and announced, "I have a deposit to make for my father."

I like to state this kind of thing up front because my father has one of those names that could be a man's or a woman's name, and people (frequently) make assumptions that I am he, and it weirds me out.  Anyway, I slid the stack of checks and deposit slip toward the teller.

"Thank you," the teller picked up the stack and quickly flipped through them. "Oh," she pulled two from the stack, "[My mother's name] will need to sign these since she's also listed on the check."

"She's passed away," I said quietly, without further information. I have found that some people require further information.  Like, "She's passed away so there is no way she will be able to sign a $2.75 check from AT&T."

"Oh," the teller said, her gaze lingering on me for just a shade longer than normal for this transaction. I knew she was putting it together...  If I am depositing checks for my father, and if the woman co-listed on the check was his spouse, ipso facto, it's probably my mother who has passed away.

Behold deductive reasoning!

"Karen," she said, quietly, discreetly. "I need to ask you a question." Karen, a bespectacled, trim woman with Breck hair despite being well into her fifties, stood up and conferred.  I heard her say, "It's what I would do..."

The teller cashed the checks, handed me the receipt, and I was on my way. I was grateful that we didn't get all personal up in there, with the "I'm sorry for your losses" and such. I mean, I don't get mad when people say that, but it triggers an emotional response in me when someone expresses sympathy. And it's perfectly OK to show my soft underbelly to friends and family, but the bank teller at noon on Friday? Not really on my list of confidantes.

This marks, I think, the first time that I have shared the news of my mother's passing without getting weepy. Caught me by surprise, it did.

Friday, March 22, 2013

From the Short Chronicles

I've told you that I'm 5'1', right?  I wear gigantic (but TASTEFUL) heels most of the time so that I can look people in the eye instead of up their noses.  Because, yuck.

Anyway, I was reminded of my shortness in a fresh way this morning. See, I'm accustomed to having to get ankle/short/petite pants hemmed.  I'm accustomed to the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets being completely empty because really? They might as well not even exist.  I am accustomed to beefy 10-year-olds being able to inspect the top of my head.

But today?

Today I pulled out a pair of new knee-high trouser socks (because I ROCK THEM LIKE A SUPERSTAR).  Except, these?  They were thigh-high.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Just a Tiny Bit of Blarney

"Excuse me," said the handsome bar patron who was quickly invading my personal space. "I'm Scott."

My new friend Scott leaned over the sternum-high wall that divided Shenanigans' bar from the dining room. I broke off my (very animated, somewhat drunken) conversation with my best friend, U2ey*.

"Hi." I raised an eyebrow and exchanged a glance with U2ey.

"And I'm Linda," said the very put-together, blond woman. Her bosom was ample enough to rest on the dividing wall, but not in a smothery fashion. And I'm not a pervert. It's just something you notice when said bosom is exactly at your eye-level.

"We were just wondering," started Scott.

"If you could guess our age," finished Linda.

"Oh, no," I said, shaking my head. "You can't ask us to guess another woman's age! That's dangerous."

"No, it's fine, really," Linda interrupted. "We're really curious."

Now, I was about three pints in at this point. Enough to see the entertainment in this request, but not so deep to get all shouty with my answer without careful consideration.

U2ey said, "I don't know..."

"We'll confer!" I yelled and slipped around the table to U2ey's side of the booth.  I sized them up.  My new pal Linda was the key. Her build and her only-slightly-lined face read mid-to-late thirties, but her very tailored look (a white sweater to a pub? ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY? stain-risk much?) and her perfectly colored and manicured hair?  That said at least forty to me. Scott had to be within spitting distance of that. But, I also want people to have a good time on a Saturday night, SO! I thought the best thing to do would be to aim low.

"You," I squinted while I considered Linda (Squinting = Deep Thought, right? (Or stigmatism. Either/or.)). "You are 37, and you," I squinted at Scott, "are 40?"

"I LOVE YOU!" Linda shouted. Which is always nice to hear.

Scott playfully pounded the divider, looking pretend grumpy.

"Well?" I said. "You have to tell us how close we were!"

"I'm 42," Linda said through a smile as wide as a harp. "And he's 41!"

Can I tell you how grateful I am that I aimed low?  If I'd gone with my gut, I only would have shaved off a year.  But many a lady, unless she is trying to sneak into a move or buy an illegal beer, are thrilled when someone guesses she is five years younger than she is.

"Why are your glasses empty?" Scott asked.

"Our waitress hasn't circled around so we haven't been able to order another round," U2ey explained. 

"Go buy them a round!" Linda giggled. I always liked that Linda.

"Done! What are you drinking?" Scott asked. I always liked that Scott.

"Guinness!" we shout in unison. My goodness, my Guinness.  I sneer at the tray of Budweiser Light another waitress is carrying across the room.

While Scott was off procuring the Guinness, I said to Linda, "Your turn! How old do you think we look."

She coolly, squintily returned the appraisal.  But, she dodged the question.

"You're babies," Linda said with a slight shake of her head. Like she has Seen Some Things, and our blooming youth couldn't comprehend what lay before us.

"Yeah, we're thirty-seven," I said.  Not that I was arguing about being a baby.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things?  Thirty-seven is the new twenty-five. Minus the ability to recover from a hangover within a day.

"No you're not." Linda shook her head. Then she turned to me. "Really? You're thirty-seven?"

"Yup!" I said. I'm actually kind of proud of my age, even if I hate the fact that I use acne cream and wrinkle cream.  Is there a product on the market that combines both?  Because if there is, I'm interested. Hear that, Open Market? Deliver unto me my request!

It's then that Scott delivered our booze to us.

"Thank you!"

U2ey and I wrapped our hands around our glasses and took a deep pull of the velvety, cool beer.

"No problem," the couple answered, then turned their attention to each other. And, based on the way they were making out, it seems like perhaps forty-two is the new sixteen.

U2ey = my best friend. I'll let you guess which band she would sacrifice me for.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone

A couple of weeks ago, my college roommate sent me an e-mail. This is not unusual. But, the contents of the e-mail? Different than the norm. The gist was, "Hey, my husband's best friend is getting married. He and his bride, who are lovely, were going to elope, but every one's convinced them to have a proper wedding. But, they are paying for it themselves. So, they do not have much money to fork out on extras.  Would you take pictures of their wedding?"

Now, I was THE black-and-white 35mm single-lens reflex girl in high school and college. That Pentax? Was perma-fixed to my neck. But then... Digital.  It made my (gasp) film camera obsolete. And then, I had kids. Digital facilitated easy uploads for out-of-state grandparents. Point-and-shoot, memory captured, uploaded to an online picture-sharing software, DONE. No fancy depth-of-field fun or anything like that, but hey, whaddya gonna do?  Convenience trumps artistry.

This all means:  the composition, lighting, aperture, shutter speed muscle that had been fairly 'roided in my formative years?  Flabby. Weak. Spongy. But so was the rest of myself, and I took care of that over the past 10 months, now DIDN'T I?  So, I thought, why not?

I have entered some kind of weird year of saying yes to things that 2012 me would've refused, lickety-split. the 2012 me would've thought, "My participation can only wreck this situation. I should graciously refuse."

2013 me? Who has accomplished the twin goals of getting published* and losing some tonnage? The 2013 me cannot be stopped.

So, I said yes. And then I bought a used digital SLR. And a fancy flash. and I read the manual, did a little forum-stalking on using the digital SLR, and subjected my kids to a Princess Kate Middleton-level of paparazzi photo-stalking. 

Then I went to the wedding.

I was outside of my comfort zone at the start, for sure. I am an introverted people-pleaser. So, forcing complete strangers into semi-candid shots? I had to put on my big-girl pants and MAKE IT HAPPEN. 'Cause if I didn't? This bride would not have the memories of her Big Day that she (didn't even know she) wanted.

Here's the thing, though: the ka-tunk of the SLR? Totally comforting. Welcoming.  A re-introduction to an old friend, like I expect to have some day in a darkened bar whilst consuming an amber-colored beverage. After a few minutes with that solid, mechanical, obedient tool in my hand, I was in control, in my element. I really, really enjoyed it.

Cut to the end of the evening, back in my hotel room.  I looked over the hundreds of shots, and was worried that I hadn't gotten everything that I should.  I tweaked, I sharpened, I brightened, I lamented the things that I missed because of unfamiliarity with my apparatus, unfortunate back-lighting, or inexperience. Things I should've asked them to do, but didn't.


I finished my PhotoShop fu, uploaded the pix to a professional-grade site where the bride and groom could order copies, and sent it out last night. I haven't heard back from the bride yet. I was nervous that she didn't find a usable pic in the bunch.  So, I Facebooked her in a shadowy fashion.  Am I proud of that?  No, but I'm not un-proud of it, either.  And you know what?  

She took one of the pics that I SHOT and posted it to her Facebook page.  Within an hour of me sending it to her.  The comments?  I know they are from her friends, so they are OBVIOUSLY going to be friendly.  But, they say, "Gorgeous photo!" "Beautiful pic!" "Looks like something out of a magazine!" "That is about the best smile I've ever seen!"

The bride is, in fact, gorgeous. And the groom? Quite dashing. And me? I am so honored, and grateful, that I got to capture it. I only hope I did them a good turn and gave them some pictures that will last a lifetime.

*Did I tell you?  My place of business solicited some original kids' tales from among the folks who worked for them.  I wrote six, SIX, pre-school-appropriate short stories and the BOUGHT THEM ALL! 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Presenting: an In-Depth Spousal Conversation about Finances

"Hey," I said when I checked in with my husband this morning, "I just want you to know, my exploration of generic alternatives isn't exclusive to the stuff you like."

[Background: My husband loves Eggo waffles.  I think it's silly that they cost a dollar more than generic frozen waffles.  He insists that even if they are 25% more expensive, they are 90% tastier, so they are worth it. That might be true, but I also think he's got a canyon-deep brand loyalty to Eggo, and that the generic waffles are probably pretty close. I would know more about that, though, if I ate as many waffles as he did. So, I've started buying Eggo again.]

"Oh yeah?" he answered. "How so?"

"I'm trying generic dark roast K-cups." I hit my blinker to turn left onto the entrance ramp to the Baltimore beltway.*

"How are they?"

"They're OK," I squinted away some of the sun glare.  "Still not as good as Starbucks French Roast, but I need to do a cost-comparison.  If they are half the cost, then they're worth it."

"I don't agree. I think they are worth all of the money.  In fact, I think you should buy the most expensive coffee."

[Side note: I mainline dark, robust coffee.  My husband is afraid of me if I haven't drunk a cup before we interact.  I think I am perfectly sunshiney and nice.  And not at all yelly.]

"Um, I think the most expensive coffee is actually processed in the colon of a civet. It's like $160 per pound."

"That.  That's what you should get."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure they don't make a K-cup version of that."

*I should not have been talking on the phone. I KNOW, okay?

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Husband Says I Don't Know How to Take a Day Off

This tale is about how I suck at taking a day off.  I can't just take a straight-up, lollygagging, do-nothing day off.  You need proof?  On my most recent day off, I had my annual-ish visit with the dermatologist.

I don't have cystic acne or a volcanic port wine stain or anything about that.  Nah. I'm just pale. I've told you about my translucent skin, yeah?  I am of Irish heritage. Actually, based on the road map of visible veins that run over my body, I think may be of vampiric Irish heritage. Which should totally make me cool with the kids* right?

So, anyway, we all know that milky skin definitely needs to be watched by a medical doctor.  Especially when it encases a dummy who scored about four massive, blistering sunburns per year from the ages of twelve through twenty-four.  I own that those sunburns were my fault.  Kids that age should not have to be told, 'Hey, pasty goon, put on some sunblock.'

At about 4:15 p.m. on my day off, I'm sitting on an exam table, fashionably dressed in a paper gown, awaiting the arrival of the inimitable Dr. C.

Have you ever endured one of these things? These skin exams?  It's not as invasive as an pap smear, but the scrutiny! This, though, seems WORSE than an OB/GYN visit.  Why?  BECAUSE THE DOCTOR IS WEARING A MAGNIFYING GLASS ON HER HEAD.  

Nothing (by which I mean everything) is more awesome than standing in the middle of an exam room, clutching a glorified paper towel to your bosom, while an Asian woman wearing headgear like Ray from 'Ghostbusters,' presses calipers to your backside to measure a mole.

Also, here's a thing I haven't learned yet:  how do you make small-talk with your doctor about your kids when she is carefully examining your side-boob?  Suggestions, interwebs?  I'm all ears.

At the end of the exam, she said that she didn't detect anything, that I should keep SPF'ing it up, and that I should slather my kids in sunblock and SPF t-shirts. Which I do. So, score for me. 

Now, let me drop a little knowledge on you: Dr. C. cautioned me to keep an eye on any moles and ick that might appear on the back of my legs. Because, apparently, that's how melanoma likes to erupt on 30+ ladies --via the backs so of their legs.  Sneaky, sneaky melanoma.

She also asked me if I could check myself out, or, if anyone else could. 'Cause nothing says romance like, "Hey, honey, could you inspect me for cancerous moles?"

For my next day off, I just might do something even more awesome, like clean out the garage.

*By kids, I mean fans of Twilight, who are mostly Mom-teens**, yes?
**Mom-teens are women who have teenage children and love the 'Twilight' series for some weird reason

Monday, February 18, 2013

Flames and Lasers Coming Out of My Face

Typically, long weekend = opportunity for non-routinized, enjoyable shenanigans, yes? Saturday entailed the normal stuff (workouts, groceries, dance class).  And, slightly outside of the norm, Saturday also included a candlelit date night at a local colonial-era inn that I am sure was peopled by ghosts.  Spiritual activity aside, I recommend the cheese plate. And the cream of crab soup.  Oh, sweet Deity, I recommend anything that the Elkridge Furnace Inn has to offer. My husband insists that you try the blackberry chocolate ice cream.

Okay, then, Sunday = SPONTANEITY. I elected to skip church (don't worry, I'll confess it during some Lenten guilt-o-rama) in favor of SCIENCE! Some would consider this ironic. I am one who subscribes to the notion that the mathematical perfection of everything MUST mean it was contrived by a Higher Being.

I could be wrong. But, whatevs. Doesn't really change much about how I conduct myself.

Yeah, so we went to the Maryland Science Center in downtown Baltimore. We are Members, which means for the low, low price of $120 per year, we get to crash their indoor playroom and rock it out in the Davis Planetarium as many times as we want. (Tip: three, six, and eight-year-olds LOVE the Sesame Street One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure.) The best part of the Membership? We EZ-pass it past the plebeians. Woot! Nothing makes you feel like you've arrived more than being able to jump a line.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, to show you that we treat our kids to fun stuff, like, ALL THE TIME.  This way, you'll judge me less when I talk about today.

President's Day. A day to honor the service of the leaders of our nation.  We respect this day. I mean, jeez, my eldest boy shares a name with at least three presidents. My husband's a civil servant. We're big on honoring the gubment 'round these parts.

Anyway, I decided to take my older two children to 'Escape from Planet Earth.'  It's the first kids' movie to come out in ages. Since it was only 32 degrees today, our rampant-kid-energy-burn options were limited. It was either the movies or the mall, and God help me, I could not stomach the mall on a civic holiday that's been turned into a commercial discount smorgasbord.

I like to prep my children re: my expectations of them. The ONLY stipulations for this afternoon's entertainment were that (a) they needed to get themselves dressed in a timely manner, and that (b) they needed to brush their teeth and hair. My darling daughter, well, she has semi-long hair, and had not brushed it thoroughly in a day and a half. I knew this would be a chore for her, but as mentioned, there was ample warning that we'd need to tame the nest.

Forty-five minutes prior to departure time, I sent them up to get dressed. They both dawdled. We were in danger of missing the movie. The hair? Not so much an issue for the Boy, even though he is currently sporting a Beatles-esque mop-top. He can still run a comb through it lickety-split. But the Girl? The Girl has issues.  So, I brushed her hair. And I brushed it hard. There were knots, and there were also ridiculous amounts of tears and screaming.

You would think that tears streaming form the eyes of my darling daughter, my only girl, my blue-eyed, flaxen-haired blessing, would inspire sympathy in me.

You would be wrong.

In my head, I am screaming, SCREAMING, that this child is the agent of her own problems. She loves long hair, wants long hair, but doesn't want to care for it. YES, she is six. But, come ON. How many times do I have to explain that long hair = needs to be brushed daily = knots when you don't brush daily?

Instead of screaming, though, I brush vigorously, taking care not to hurt more than I have to (but not particularly worrying if there's some discomfort). I mean, we have to get to the movie on time, right? It's not fair to my oldest boy if he misses part of the movie because of his sister's hair issues?

So there are tears, and yelling, and shoving into coats and out of the house, into the car...  Then. on the way to the theater, my girl-child kept crying, wailing, about her grooming.  The word 'unfair' was used about eleventy times between my driveway and the tippy-top of our street.

I slammed on the brakes (no one was around, I checked). I turned, and erupted, "ENOUGH!" I saw space and time shift before me, melting under the flames of my crazed shouty anger.


"You keep using the word 'unfair!' Clearly, you think 'unfair' means you don't get what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. That's not what 'unfair' means. You are acting greedy, and unappreciative. Do you know how many movies I got to see when I was your age?"

"None?" she answered.

"That's right!" I shouted. Hrmph. I had clearly shared this information before. "NONE. When I was in first grade, my school took us on a field trip to see 'The Aristocats.' Other than that, my older brothers and sisters would take us to see movies every once in a while. I just want you to be grateful, and not act like a brat."

Silence. Silence and more silence on the five-minute drive to the theater.  We arrived, bought our tickets and snacks, and settled in for a mediocre kids movie.

All was fine by the end of the movie. All was forgiven; both the ridiculous resistance to grooming and the ridiculous overreaction to the resistance.

I don't really have any perspective on this. No wisdom to be found here.  My kid pushed my buttons, and I lost it. But I still did the fun thing, not wanting to punish all of my kids for the ridiculousness of one of them.

Mostly, I guess, I wanted to offer this:  it's typical for a kid to know how to needle you in just the right way to get you to explode. And you will explode.  I don't care if you had to barter your soul and a million dollars to bear or acquire your precious blessing.  They will, mark my words, turn you into a person so foreign to you, so rippling with anger and frustration that  you are temporarily convinced that you are a bad person.

Here's the thing, though:  in those moments, you realize the depth of your love for these children, because if anyone else treated you this way, God damn, you would throat punch them.

I swear, everyone was giggling about fifteen minutes after the tears threatened to breach the levees. Families are all slightly insane, right?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

I Ran a 5K This Morning So I Am Probably a Pod Person

If you don't know what a pod person is, hie thee hence: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I'll wait for you.

By the way, I watched that movie on TV with my Dad when I was a sick eight-year-old.  I must write a post at some point about all of the inappropriate movies my parents let me watch in my formative years. Honestly, I know way more about '80's action movies than any woman should.

Yeah, so, I've been in Orlando, Florida for a work conference.  Good people, good work, none of which I will tell you about.  One of my co-workers does 5Ks and half-marathons* on the regular, and organized one for us here at the resort.  By 'organized,' I mean that she found out they had a 5K route mapped out around the resort, and then set a time for people to run.

On Monday, I walked into the staff breakfast room, and dished some fruit, eggs, and bacon onto my plate.  YES, I still eat bacon.  I just eat two slices instead of twelve.  Anyway, when I got t the end of the buffet line, I saw a poster-sized sign-up sheet for a 5K around the complex.


I've been running like a hamster on the elliptical.  The machine tells me I'm clocking three miles in a half hour .  Three miles is the rough equivalent of a 5K.  Why not try it?

This is where I had tiny identity crisis. Like, a TIA-sized identity crisis, as opposed to a full-blown stroke. I'm not a runner.  I read. I write. I drink copious amounts of coffee.  I take pictures. I fret over implied hurts and insults. I don't spend my Saturday mornings racing adults and posting my running times on Facebook.  I don't get up at pre-dawn hours to feel the wind whipping my hair as I glide across the pavement.

Except...  except...  Maybe I do?  If I'm not a runner, at least maybe I'm a dedicated... Exerciser?  I guess runners always seem to LOVE running.  Me? I don't love it.  At all.  I don't love running, don't love the elliptical, don't like the crunches and planks and push-ups.  (I do like yoga, though.)  

But...  After a workout, I love the satisfied fatigue in my muscles, like they ate a good-sized meal at a fabulous restaurant.  I love the endorphins. I love being strong. And, I gotta be honest, I love the new shape that routine has given me.

I can't imagine going back to sedentary. I feel gross just thinking about it.  I suppose that adds up to evidence that I actually have changed my lifestyle and embraced this whole workout thing.

Which is why, pre-dawn, I met a handful of drowsy co-workers in our hotel lobby, stretched, and hoofed the infinity loop (and trust me, it felt infinite) that wraps around this part of the resort.  Half of our group walked it.  I ran it.  I figured, in for a penny, in for a pound.  My running partner is about a foot taller than me, though, so we kept up a pace that was maybe a bit aggressive for my stumpy stems.  Twenty-seven minutes later, the sun hung red in the horizon, and the whole 5K thing was done.  

I didn't die. I was winded occasionally, but only when I tried to chat while running. (Rookie, right?)

I'm pretty sure that my legs are going to turn to jelly later, though. 

*At what distance does the World of Running switch from metric to English systems of measure?  I mean, there's 5K, 10K, half-marathon (13 miles), and marathon (26 miles).  Should it go 5K, 10K, 21K, and 42K?  I just like consistency, is all.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Overheard and Too Awesome Not to Share

I'm a travellin' gal this week.  For work, not for pleasure.  Though, it is pleasurable to be in warmer climes. EVEN IF it means travelling AWAY from Baltimore and watching the Superbowl with co-workers who are supporting the left coast team.

Side note: I don't know if you heard, BUT BALTIMORE WON!  Yay, team!  And yay for the Boy, who, during the first year of conscientiously supporting a team, just so happened to support a winning team.  Not that it's all about winning.  It's mostly  about sportsmanship. And some winning.

But that's not what this post is about.  NO! This post is about the awesome five minutes of conversation I overheard on the plane today.

So there's me, sitting there, trying to focus on the book I'm reading.  But I can't. This is partially, a teeny-tiny smidgenly bit, due to the fact that digital devices are ruining my ability to remain in one app at a time. It is MOSTLY due to the inane opinions and revelations coming from the woman in back of me.

American Southern Accent Man: I'm originally from Georgia, but I work in Baltimore pretty often.

Woman: We (referring to her mostly-silent husband sitting in the middle seat) lived in Ellicott City for about thirty years, and raised our kids there. But we go to Florida to warm up and just relax. Do you travel much for work?

ASAM: I do. I was recently in Europe.

Woman:  Oh, were you? We've never been. Where would you recommend that someone go, of all of the places you've been in Europe.

ASAM: Honestly, the most beautiful city is Brussels. In Belgium?

Woman: Really?

ASAM:  Yes,. It's just beautiful. They make some really wonderful things there. Chocolate, beer, and waffles.  You walk around, and the whole city just smells like waffles.

Woman: Are they like the waffles here?

ASAM:  No, not really. They do something special there. I don't know what it is, but they are unbelievable.  And the beer...

Woman:  Oh, well, we're total squares. Probably the squarest people you've ever met. Neither one of us has ever had wine, or beer.  I don't know why. We've just never had it.

ASAM:  ......

Woman: What about Paris? Have you ever been there? Would you recommend it?

ASAM:  I have. Let me tell you, the towns and country outside of Paris are beautiful, and the people are wonderful.  Really friendly, and kind.  But in Paris? They hate Americans. Can't stand us. They are generally pretty rude.

Woman:  I don't know what the point of going is, then. You can see it in movies and read about it in books.

ASAM:  ......

Woman:  Would you take your family there?

ASAM:  Oh, sure. If I could afford it, I would love to take my family there, even though, travelling as an American isn't as safe as it use to be.

Woman:  I know! My daughter-in-law and my granddaughter both want to go to Paris. And I said, to her, "Have you seen 'Taken'? I just don't understand why you'd want to travel around like that.

Me: (snickering, desperately wanting to turn around and point out that 'Taken' is not a documentary, but instead burying my nose in my iPad, which kind of hurts when you press the screen against your face that hard.)

ASAM:  ....

And then, somehow, wondrously, the conversation shifted to a food chain problem in the Everglades. According to ASAM, some one went to 'Africa or the Amazon or some damn country' and brought back a hundred pythons, or anacondas, and released them into the Everglades, and now the snakes are taking over the ecosystem.

Woman: Can they kill an alligator?

ASAM: Oh, sure they can.

And that's when, for my own sanity, I had to stop listening.  I actually plugged my fingers into my ears to block out the noise.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Google Search History Makes Me Look Like a Nutcase

Yesterday, my left ring finger felt funky. Like, my-finger-is-so-numb-that-it-feels-like-someone-stitched-a-cadaver-finger-onto-my-hand funky. I attributed the numbness to the nasal-passage-freezing cold snap that is currently punching the East Coast. Why? Because, like a dummy, I went gloveless yesterday. Cold begets numbness, yes?  But then I went inside, warmed up, and was perfectly toasty.  But the ring finger, she stayed numb. Also? In the bright light of my kitchen, I could see that she was yellowish, like my baby boys when they were fresh out of the womb. (Sidenote:  mixed blood types = jaundice and a five-day sentence on the bilirubin blanket).

Though I'm no medical expert, I'm well aware that you don't get jaundice in just one finger.  So then I started freaking out that maybe I was having a heart attack.  But, that's a shooting pain/numbness in your whole arm, not just your ring finger. Usually. "Oh God," I thought, "what if a heart attack can kind of creep up on you sometimes? What if, in fact, I am a victim of a very slow, progressive heart attack preceded by a very slow pain/numbness?"

I may also have thought: "Well, if it's not a heart attack and the flesh is necrotic, I'm pretty sure that I could live without my left ring finger. I'd have to re-learn how to type, though."*

Well, once you're wondering if you're having a heart attack or contemplating surgical removal of a digit, there's only one solution. No, not the E.R., Silly Reader. Google! Within about a minute I found out that this numbness thing is commonly caused by a nerve that has been pinched like an adorable three-year-old's cheeks.  An ulnar nerve, which, courtesy of my seventh grade biology class, I know is in my forearm.

Herm. A pinched nerve? Whatever could've caused a pinched... Oh. Wait.

The day before, I exercised a bit more vigorously on the elliptical than normal. And, I tend to clutch the elliptical's handles like gravity doesn't exist and I will be thrown off the planet if I don't hold on for dear life.  As it happens, this can cause your fingertips to go numb.

So, yeah.  The next time I pounce on the elliptical, I won't hold the handles at all because I am a FREE SPIRIT!  But, mostly, I don't want my finger to go all yellow and numb again.

Hooray for aging!

*This and my crazy Tetris-skillz are full-on proof that I am clearheaded in stressful situations.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Any Animal Totem Experts Out There?

As I wrapped a scarf around my daughter, I glimpsed through the window panes next to our front door.  A fellow bus stop kid, aged ten, was very nearly executing a perfect downward-facing dog toward our front lawn.This is not a typical, so I figured she was inspecting something awesome like our neighbor's big black Labrador marked his (our) territory AGAIN.

Anyway, the Girl and I stumbled blearily into the gray morning mist to await the bus. The Boy was annoyed with me because I insisted that he wear more than one sweatshirt in the forty-degree air, so he hung back on the porch. I figured I'd give the grass a once over to see what caught neighbor-girl's attention.

I didn't have to do that.  Before my boot even hit the step down to the walkway, the neighbor-girl cried, "Miss Mary! There's fur all over your lawn!"

I scrunched up my nose.  Fur?  I trod closer... Ick. Yes. Fur. Tufts of it smeared all over our lawn, like someone had gutted a comforter. Thankfully, no blood. Or arcane dark magic symbols.

"Looks like you're right, " I answered.  I mean, what's appropriate here? I didn't want to scream, "Ew, gross!" in front of a bunch of under-10 kids. So, I turned away from the kids and pulled a face.

One of my fellow bus stop mothers said, "It was probably a fox that got a squirrel."

"Well, that's awesome," I answered.  Surprisingly, my daughter had little interest in the fur tumbleweeds. I would have predicted that she would try and collect the fur and look for bones.  At the very least, I thought she would have insisted upon a gory blow-by-blow of the squirrel's demise. Instead, she wandered over to another little girl and they demonstrated their twirling abilities to each other, their puffy coats ballooning ever-so-slightly.

"Oh, Mommy," said the inquisitive neighbor-girl (who clearly has a very acute sense of hearing and a fairly strong stomach), "it probably WAS a fox.  Remember Mrs. [name redacted] said that she saw a fox?"

"Yes," she answered. "Now, go to wait for the bus."

My fellow bus-stop mothers and I share the same tolerance level for energetic chit-chat that revolves around the slaughter of rodents in the wild.  And by 'wild,' I mean a barely-manicured patchy lawn.


The bus rumbled down our street, collected the kids, and rumbled back up again. We mothers said our goodbyes to each other, and off we went to our homes and jobs.  I took a minute to call my husband to let him know he had some crime scene clean-up duties that night. I know, I know, I AM EVERY WOMAN and all that jazz. But, I've recently become very comfortable with the idea that while I CAN do everything, it is not REQUIRED that I do everything.  Besides, he and I have an agreement that outside chores default to him, and inside chores default to me. On the surface, it seems like I get stuck with more work.  But I don't think that I will be called upon to rake up animal carcass. Well, not unless my children turn on each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Used a Trader Joe's Shopping Bag as a Purse Today

I just thought you all should know that.

Wait, you want to know why I ventured out in upper-middle-class hobo drag?  'Cause I needed to tote my wallet, phone, iPad (don't judge) with me on an errand.  These things live in my laptop bag during the work week.  But, I didn't want to drag my laptop bag around with me, so I went with grocery chic.

Why was I so unprepared?  Because today was an awesome example of Way Planning Ahead Me vs. Last-Minute Me.  I scheduled my annual dentist appointment a year ago.  I didn't jot this down anywhere.  If I did, it was written on something ephemeral, like condensation on the inside of my car.  So, minus ten points for me.

They called yesterday to confirm. But, I left my cell on silent and didn't get the message 'til this morning, when it was too late to cancel. It's like that recurring nightmare when I haven't gone to a class all semester, and am too late to withdraw.  I HAVE TO TAKE THE EXAM AND I WILL PROBABLY FAIL.

In this case, though, I just haven't been flossing as much as I should.  And I had coffee breath.

Sorry, Dr. H!

I have this weird thing about dental and eye exams.  I know that they are not graded, nor are they pass/fail.  But I still want to pass, and pass with FLYING COLORS.  I want an A, a check plus, a sticker on my forehead.  I want my doctors to be shocked and awed by how well I perform on these exams. Is it any wonder I was the valedictorian of my high school? (Which only matters to me, I'm sure.  Well, me and the salutatorian.  Hi Julie!)

Because of my accursed gene pool, though, 'passing' an eye exam means that I correctly identified the giant 'E' at the top of the eye chart and did not mistake it for a picture of a bunny.  Passing the dental exam means that my teeth didn't crumble like blue cheese when my dentist pokes them with the poky thing.

Today's results?  I have a full-term cavity in one of my upper molars (12-D, to be exact), and a gestating cavity on the other side. Cavities are nothing new to me. If you are a devoted reader of this blog (and who isn't, am I right?), then you know that my teeth are essentially made of shale.  I currently have two crowns, and a giant gap where an implant is supposed to go.  The implant will  happen someday.  That day will likely be two days after my daughter notices the gap and makes fun of me for it.

After the dentist appointment, I took a little drive.  My dentist is in the neighborhood I grew up in.  'Grew up in' is perhaps ambitious.  I lived there 'til I was eleven.  Was I grown up at eleven?  Bookish, but not grown up.  I cruised past the old homestead, via the path I used to walk daily to and from my local Catholic school.  I do this pretty much every time I go to the dentist, and I'm always amazed by how crowded the neighborhood feels.  The houses seemed gigantic and rambling when I was a kid.  And now, it's just a house.

But damn if I don't want to snatch that gorgeous turn-of-the-century stained glass every time I pass by. And stuff it into my giant Trader Joes' bag.