Friday, May 31, 2013


I'm over at Love for Lemons today. I've been waiting forever to put the words "muppets" and "genitals" in a sentence together.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


This is from a prompt from my writing group last night.

Blueberry Hill, which I was sure the famous song had been written about, could be accessed just down the street from our house. I’d head up the little winding trail with my brother or my best friend, clutching empty yellow plastic margarine containers in my hands.

I turned the berries over with the pads of my fingers to quickly ensure the berries were whole; round, unblemished, wormless. I knew my mom would soak them in a big bowl of water and salt, evacuating the worms and leaving the rotten fruit to rise to the top of the bowl.

It was the summer I was freshly nine. The summer Cynthia Elrod was murdered. Everyone was talking about it; the murderer had not been caught, and we all knew that since you could only escape Juneau by boat or airplane, the killer had either hopped the next plane to Seattle, or he was still roaming amidst us and would soon erupt and kill someone else.

I didn’t know Cynthia, but her mom ran the store in the valley where we shopped for jeans. I’d skimmed enough in the newspaper to know that whoever had done this to her had cut her up. The pieces that had made her Cynthia—I can still see the small, grainy black and white newspaper picture with her short hair and plain, young face—those pieces were left in the bathtub of her mobile home. I remember the words “partially clad” in the article on her death, which was, and still is, unsolved. How foreign and clipped the word ‘clad’ seemed.

I don’t know why, but one rainy day playing in my bedroom, I told my best friend Jill that I had killed Cynthia. She didn’t believe me and so I got more and more insistent, until my friend finally yelled, “I’m going to tell my dad!”  
“Oh, I was totally kidding. Please don’t tell your dad!” Her dad was my godfather, but he had once told me, “I’m going to pound you into the ground,” and the words had made my heart pound. Jill went home early that day.

I can still feel the seed of shame I felt after telling her the grisly lie. I still wonder what gripped me to say something so terrible about that poor killed girl.

That same summer, Dr. Moss’ daughter had been killed by her boyfriend, who then turned his gun on himself in a driveway. I didn’t know his daughter either, but he gave me stinging allergy shots in my right bicep every week. A few times a year he would listen to my heart while I watched his serious face, waiting to hear if the murmur in my heart was still there. I kept watching his face after that summer, trying to gauge if it had gotten more serious now that he had a dead daughter.

I was picking blueberries on Blueberry Hill late that summer. I was plopping the first layer of berries into the cup when I heard sirens. They were far away; maybe across Gastineau channel, downtown, or maybe out near the hospital. But I heard them. I absorbed them. It felt like they were inside me—roaring and pulsing, buzzing and zapping and I stopped mid-pick, my hands stained purple from the berries, my eyes, wide and scared. What had happened now, in this tiny town that was everything I knew? Who had been killed now? I ran home, the yellow bottom of the cup still visible.



Sunday, May 26, 2013


I can barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, but I just flashed back to a ferry trip I took 11 years ago. For three days, I rode the ferry from my hometown of Juneau, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington.

The slow, quiet rocking gave me time to process a major transition. One of my closest friends had just died unexpectedly. I had finally, after eight years, graduated with my BA, and I was preparing to leave the west coast for Maine. For the second time. For three days I slept in a sweet, tiny cabin with windows looking out to the silver grey sea. I wrote in my journal. I stared at the waves, trying to conjure up an image of what the next part of my life would be like.
Partway through, I was eating alone in the ferry cafeteria. At the next booth over, a woman sat with her very chatty young son. “Why does that woman only have one leg?” the boy asked his mother. I knew who he was referring to; I had seen the passenger on the boat with just one leg.
“Well, I’m not sure why,” his mother said.
“But how does she walk? Does she hop?” I spied the young boy grabbing a French fry. “The lady with one leg goes hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop,” he sang, to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”
I silently dipped a curly fry into a pale plastic container of tartar sauce. The mother tried to explain why sometimes people only have one leg. I couldn’t believe she was letting him dramatically reenact this woman’s handicap with greasy ferry fries.

Today, my four-year-old son has been talking since he woke up at 5:30 this morning. My husband needed to work this morning, so except for a blissful break at my gym, which boasts free child care, my ears have been steadily assaulted all morning.

We picked my husband up and the four of us headed out to lunch, where the verbal parade continued. The part that most frustrates me is that the majority of what my son says makes no sense. “If you’re doing what you can do, you might think there’s two people.” Oh, okay. Right.

As I tried to enjoy my sweet potato wedges and veggie sandwich, Max’s one way conversation took a new turn.
“Does everybody have rolls in their neck?” he asked. I followed his gaze past my toddler daughter, who had managed to cram most of a piece of toast into her mouth. My eyes stopped at an older woman at a nearby table. I instantly knew he was referring to the saggy hammock of skin beneath her chin.
“Does everybody have them?” he asked again.
“No, not everybody does,” I whispered.
“But that lady does!” he said, pointing.
“Maxie, if she heard you say that, it might hurt her feelings,” my husband, Scott, explained. “Oh,” Max said. “I didn’t know women could eat those,” he said, pointing to my veggie sandwich.
“Huh,” I said. “Maxie, women can eat anything men can.”
“Oh. I KNOW. But I’m saying, I didn’t know WOMEN could eat that.”
“Okay…” I trailed off, hoping he would, too.
“That man is smalllll,” Max announced.
“Shhh,” my husband said.
“But why? That is a small man!”
“Shhh. Eat your rice.”
For half a second, the rice effectively blocked any words from departing Max’s mouth.

Then, a young woman entered the restaurant, assisting an older woman who walked with a cane.
“Why is she helping her? Why does that lady have a sad face? Why is that lady so small! But look, right now her face is sad!”
“I don’t think she has a sad face,” Scott said.
“But she just did! She just did have a sad face!” I glanced at the woman, who had the taut, frozen frown of a stroke victim. We briefly, quietly, attempted to explain that the younger woman was helping her walk, because sometimes people need help.
“Eat your rice.”

 I see the scene I witnessed all those years ago on the ferry differently now. The mother had been locked up on a boat with her little curious chatterbox for 48 hours straight. She had probably been fielding questions about whales and French fries and captains and barnacles and ladies with one leg for most of that time. She probably wanted to poke her eyes out but she knew if she did, her son would ask her why she didn’t have any eyes and what could he put in the holes where her eyes used to be and maybe he would try to make a French fry eyehole sculpture.

I love that my son is curious, as was my cafeteria mate on the ferry all those years ago. Max is beginning to notice peoples’ differences. That some of us are old or have different shades of skin. Some of us have neck wattles and are short. I love that he is trying to understand this beautiful, aching world. I just wish he would take a breath once in awhile. Wish I could, for just a few hours, float on a ferry in the mostly quiet in-between.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Potty Humor


If you know me well, you know I love potty humor. Say the word poo or booger or peepee or weiner and I will snicker. My son is finally at the age where he is beginning to explore potty humor too. It’s a little slice of heaven.

From the bathroom this morning while my son was doing his business, to the tune of “Centerfield”: 

Put me in coach
I’m ready to poop
Look at me
I can poop

And the other day, hanging out with one of my best mommy friends, I witnessed her daughter picking her nose and eating it. This is a novelty for me, as I was never a nose picker myself. Except for the boogers I used to scrape onto the rim of my Snoopy garbage pail. “I thought you couldn’t get her to eat anything,” I joked to my friend.

My son had a stomach bug last winter and hollered out, “Diareeta! Here it comes!” The laughs from his proclamation squirted a bit of lightness into an otherwise challenging few days stuck at home with a sick kid.

But lately I’ve been wondering why this humor is so funny.  A quick google search does little to illuminate my question, but does provide new gems such as “vagina cheeks” to incorporate into my lexicon. And strangely, some reinforcement, from an article entitled How to Tame Potty Humor on  "A lot of humor is being irreverent; that gives us control over anxiety," declares Tufts University child-development professor W. George Scarlett, Ph.D.

God knows I’ve got the anxiety part down: perhaps this is why my sense of humor failed to evolve past that of a nine-year-old. 

I will say that I don’t encourage my son’s potty humor, except when the occasional laugh squeaks out. Like the time he yanked his pants down and said, “I’m going to poop all over Papa!”

But I don’t discourage it, either. Discouraging his behavior often backfires, as it did this very morning, when I asked him to please not stand at the front window naked. I asked him nicely, and then turned my back to change my daughter’s poopy diaper. By the time I turned back around, I found the need to utter this unexpected phrase: “Please remove your penis from the windowsill.”

 Window weiner.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Check it Out

Pleased to be checking my post on body image on New Approaches. Hannah does a great job exploring mental health issues, and she's been on a guest post spree this month. Plus, pics of Violet's belly. Here's one to tide you over.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Girls just want to have...

Every so often, I send my daughter to daycare for an extra day to give myself a little more time.

"So, what are you going to do today?" my husband asks.

"Oh, work, tidy up the house, pay some bills," I respond.

"You sure know how to have a good time," he says.

Apparently, I'm not alone in this issue.

Why do I find it so hard to just relax or do something fun? Some of it is probably predisposition. Most of us with tendencies toward anxiety and depression aren't the carefree, go with the flow types. Some of that is that we think too much, which I believe is counterintuitive to fun.

Some of it is lack of time. Between taking care of young kids, work, and fitting in the self-care activities I require to maintain an even keel, there's not a lot of time left over.

Watching my kids is a good cue for me. My son is happiest when he's prancing around singing and playing air guitar or drums, or when he's outside running around. Basically, when he is fully in his body, engaged in activities pleasurable to him.

In my mind, I have this video loop born of American media and culture: fun is amusement parks and bungee jumping, travelling to exotic places, shopping with my lady friends. With the exception of travel, I do not enjoy or aspire to any of these things.

I like to dance and read. Listen to music. Going to the movies. Like my son, I like activities where I'm present in my body and my brain takes a break. A huge contrast to what I'm usually doing, which at a given moment might be trying to unload the dishwasher while fielding demands from the kiddos and checking Facebook (where it certainly appears as if everyone is having more fun than me!) on my iPhone.

Sometimes, when life is the busiest, it helps to add something to the mix, even though it's counterintuitive.

What do you do to add fun to this brief, beautiful, bizarre life?

Friday, May 17, 2013

I have a weaner

This week marked the end of an era for me. A long era. As of May, I had officially been either pregnant, nursing or both for five years. Five years is a long to be a host body.

Don't get me wrong. I am proud and grateful. Giving birth and feeding my babies has transformed the way I see my body. It has allowed me to shift from a place of criticism to a place of respect, if not awe, at what my body has done. But five years is a long time.

As I watched my little Violet sleep in her crib last night, without having been nursed to sleep, I felt bittersweet. She is my lovebug, my sassy, sweet seventeen-month old. She is my surprise in every sense of the word. I always thought I would have a mini-me, a dark haired brooding little poet girl. Instead, she has creamy pale skin, a dash of reddish hair and a quick laugh. She is pure light, with a bit of sass for good measure. And we are done nursing.

It happened almost by accident.

Over the past several months, I slowly dropped nursing sessions, offering solid food or water instead of mama milk. She never complained. My son was literally attached to my boobs for the first year of his life; he nursed constantly. Every twenty or thirty minutes. When I began to drop nursing sessions with him, he would turn red-faced and angry. "Milt! Milllltttt!" he demanded. I nursed him until he was just over two years old. When we were finally, finally done, I immediately found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

So before long, with no drama, my daughter and I were only nursing at bedtime. I sang her a song each night, then quietly asked the universe to protect her and Max. I watched her eyes open and close, open and close, as my warm arms and milk cradled and fed her.

Last Sunday night, we spent Mother's Day on Peaks Island. After a day of playing with their cousins and gorging on cantelope, my kiddos both passed out in the car at 5:30 in the evening and transferred to their beds without waking up. It made for a strange, blissfully quiet night. And Violet didn't nurse.

Monday night at Vi's bedtime, I tried just holding her with some music on instead of nursing. Just to see what would happen; I expected protest. She let out a whimper or two when I sang the song I've always sang while giving her milk. But it may just be that without the distraction of nursing, she realized I have a dreadful singing voice. Then she plopped her head down on my shoulder, and as I shifted my weight back and forth, back and forth with the music, she fell asleep.

Tuesday night I had writing group, so Scott put her to bed as he always does on Tuesdays. No nursing.

Wednesday night went just like Monday night.

And so we are done, just like that. I thought maybe I should nurse her one last time, just so I could really pay attention. So I could watch her body relax against mine, taking it all in.

But life is not usually like that. We don't usually know when its the last time we are experiencing something. So instead the memories of both my kids nursing will run together in my mind, a blur of warmth and connection and sometimes, annoyance at having to share so much of myself for so long.