Tuesday, May 31, 2011

red light. green light.



Most of the time, I look at my kids and think,

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY, GET BIGGER.

I want them to be older, more reasonable, less likely to fall down the stairs or choke on a hot dog or run out into traffic. I want them to get old enough to quietly make their own breakfast while I sleep in. I want them to be, well... functional.

Then I see pictures like these.



I see my children from a distance, frozen in time, bright and beautiful.

And it takes my breath away.

When they're on you, pawing at you, leaning on you, crying into your shoulder, you can't get the distance to truly appreciate them.

But when you step back, you truly *see* them.

But when you suddenly realize how leggy and coltish they are, how easily they can ride a bike, even with no hands, you understand finally that this stage won't last forever.

That they are, in fact, getting bigger. Getting older.



And you don't really notice, because you're there every day, and because they're always touching you.

And then I stop saying GET BIGGER and start saying ALWAYS BE THIS WAY, NEVER CHANGE, ALWAYS STAY SMALL ENOUGH FOR ME TO HOLD YOU AND KEEP YOU SAFE.

Red light.

Greeen light.

Monday, May 30, 2011

a brief foray into seriousness



Some days, like today, I feel like a walking litany of complaints. Emotional, physical, circumstantial. When they say being a parent is the hardest job you'll ever love, they're serious.

It's really, really hard.

And I use my blog to complain about it, hopefully in a funny way that makes other parents feel like they're not alone, because sometimes connection to other suffering adults is the only way we stay sane.

But today is Memorial Day, and it makes me think that there are other, harder jobs that people love but do anyway. There are harder sacrifices. There are people far from their families, living on less sleep and worse food, putting their lives on the line every day. And there are families left behind, mothers raising children alone, fathers who have never seen their babies.

And here I am, complaining. I don't have the guts to be in the armed forces. I have never served in any capacity. But I'm thankful and proud as hell of those who have and do.

The things our servicemen and women have to deal with are so much more difficult, painful, and terrifying than anything I talk about here. It's humbling, that people make such a sacrifice, that people give their lives so that we can be free to blog and kvetch and whine and watch Two and a Half Men and eat ice cream out of the carton while bitching about Newt Gingrich.

Thank you, veterans.

From the bottom of my heart.

We appreciate the freedom you've given us more than words can say.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

1-2-3-4 bang your head against a door

Hypothesis: Four-year-olds are evil.



Okay, just a little evil, and most of that is from photo manipulation. But they can still make you crazy. Here's why.

Scenario: You present the child with a plate of warm food.

You tell a 1 year old: Don't touch! Hot! Ouchie!

You tell a 2 year old: Don't touch, okay? It's hot! It can burn you! Wait a minute to eat it!

You tell a 3 year old: Your food is hot. You can tell, because there's steam. So don't touch it. Give it a few minutes to cool off, and touch it first to make sure you don't burn your mouth.

You tell a 4 year old: Yes, it's the eggs you requested. Yes, I cooked them the way you like them, because last time you wouldn't eat them because they were cut into squares. No, you can't have the cupcake in the back of the freezer if you eat all of the eggs. Yes, you can pretend to be Olivia while you eat the eggs, so long as you use your fork and don't pretend I'm Olivia's frumpy mom. As you can tell by the copious amounts of steam, they're really hot. You don't need to scream, screech, or run around the room squeaking like a guinea pig to communicate that the eggs are hot. Don't touch the steam. Don't touch the food. I said don't touch it. QUIT TOUCHING IT. GET YOUR TONGUE OFF THE STEAMY EGGS, YOU TINY WEIRDO. Fine. If you burn yourself, you're taking the Big Wheel to the hospital.

Friday, May 27, 2011

NOM NOM you NOM

Yes, it's my third blog post today. I wanted to end on an upnote.



If you're looking for sad or deep, scroll down.

If you're looking for happy, just keep watching him try to eat the camera.

the quiet things that no one ever knows




Have you ever lost something that you didn't want?

It's like one star winking out in the blanket of the sky, something you don't even miss until there's an emptiness left behind. Then comes the subtle dance of chemicals and feelings and nonexistent hopelessness. The feeling that something is wrong edging into the sure knowledge that nothing, nothing is wrong.

You want to curl in on yourself, alone, in bed. You want someone to explain it to, you want someone who can explain it *to* you, but there is no one who understands it.

You say, "Please be kind to me. It's hard right now. I don't know why."

But secretly, you think you know.

Tiny cheeks press against yours in response, tears come, you know it will pass.

And you say, "There it went."

*

not sure how long that will stay up. but i needed to say it, at least for a while.

3 times the uncharm



So there's this unspoken rule around our house.

Well, nowadays, we do actually speak it, because small children don't pick up on social cues.

It's called The Never Ask Mommy the Same Thing Three Times or She'll Punish You Rule.

See, I hate repeating myself. Hate. It. For some reason, it just really eats up all of my already lacking patience. Dr. Krog has learned over the years that if you have to ask me something three times, it's generally not worth finding it out.

Because if you have to ask a third time, I'm going to enunciate the words clearly and slowly in a way meant to make you feel like a moron.

I'M SORRY. IT'S A PERSONAL FLAW.

So Dr. Krog gets it. If he has to ask a third time, he stops, looks at me like a wounded fawn, and says, "Please don't be angry with me. I want to hear you and understand you, but there's a chainsaw-wielding maniac behind me. Would you please be so kind and beautiful as to tell me just one more time?"

Or something like that.

But kids? They so don't get it. They ask the same things over and over and over again. The same things that should be obvious. And I know they can't help it, that it's how they learn. But it uses up every ounce of brain energy and compassion that I have.

biscuit: Mommy, is Nina my mommy?

me: No, buddy. I'm your mommy, which is why you call me "Mommy." Nina is your grandmother. She's *my* mommy.

biscuit: So is Big Ben her baby?

me: No. I'm her baby.

biscuit: So is Mimi your mommy?

me: No. Nina is my mommy. Big Ben is my daddy. Mimi is Big Ben's mommy. Mimi is my grandmother and your great-grandmother.

biscuit: So that makes Nina my mommy!

me: ::headdesk:: Dude, we went over this yesterday. I made you a family tree, complete with identifying stick figures. It's hanging on the fridge. Nina is not your mommy.

biscuit: I'd really like some ice cream.

me: No.

biscuit: Please?

me: No.

biscuit: PRETTY PLEASE?

me: GRAELJATOPEIUTQWPEOITJELJGLKK3K4$#$^#$%&#%&#%#

Etc.

Still, I'm better than I used to be. One time in college, the guy I was dating saw me snap at some annoying kids at a playground, and he asked me, "Is that how you're going to treat our kids?"

My first reaction was JEEZ, ASSUME MUCH? And my second reaction was GOD, I HOPE NOT. When I catch myself growling at my kids or grinding my teeth on the fourth repeat of Why We Can't Eat Ice Cream for Every Meal, I think about that moment, about how at 22, a guy who didn't understand me that well could see that I was going to have challenges as a mother.

And I do. I want to be kinder. I want to have more patience, more compassion. By bedtime, I'm so annoyed with other human beings that if I saw someone drowning, I'd probably tell them to shut up and quit thrashing around.

It's a daily struggle, and I see other mothers with this infinite supply of patience and get so, so jealous.

But you know what?

Me neither.

There's no pithy lesson here.

I just wish I was a better, kinder, more patient person.

*

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the dance of peace



1 yard pre-smocked, tie-dye, peace sign fabric: $11.99

15 minutes of my time, billed at a premium: FREE

little girl who says,

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU MADE ME TWO DRESSES IN ONE DAY!
IT'S LIKE DRESS CHRISTMAS!"
without commenting on the wonky seams, loose stitches, and generally unruly nature of your by-the-seat-of-your-jeans sewing:

Priceless.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the end of an era




*

How was her last day of preschool?

For her, sweet.

There was cake.

And she has no concept of time.

She doesn't understand the sometimes harsh line between the kind, carefree days of private preschool and the more rigid, 7-hour days of kindergarten. She's never been in a classroom with more than ten kids in it. She doesn't even know what homework is.

Don't get me wrong. Next year could be the start of something wonderful.

Or, like my first tour behind the war lines of public school, it could be a psychological disaster.

My job is to keep that from happening.

*

So here's my pledge to you, big kid:

If you tell me you're being bullied, I'll do something about it.

If you tell me that you're bored in school or your teacher is snide to you because you ask her for more to do, I'll schedule a meeting with her and insist on no less than the attention, respect, and kindness you deserve.

If you wake up with a ball of dread in your stomach because you hate school, even though deep down you love school, we'll explore the options. If we have to home school or private school or change districts-- whatever, we'll do it.

You're worth it.

I want every day of school to be as sweet as your last day of preschool, when you got a gold medal, sang your favorite sunshine song, and ate cake.

love,
mom


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

goodbye, my freedom




"I'm dressing up today," I said to myself.

"I'm putting on my newest shoes.
I'm wearing a skirt.
I'm curling my eyelashes, or at least trying to.
I want to look cute for my last day of freedom."

Because today is the last day of preschool for the year.

Those six blessed hours I spent writing at Starbucks every week?

Gone.

As is the occasional child-free shopping trip or eyebrow threading or haircut.

Have you ever tried to get your eyebrows threaded while trying to keep a toddler in a stroller that said toddler has learned to unbuckle? It's like trying to hug an octopus while doing brain surgery, except if you mess up, you lose half an eyebrow.

*

From here to September, it's just me and these hooligans.





I AM SO SCREWED.


Monday, May 23, 2011

because i always do what facebook tells me to

I wasn't sure what to blog about, so I asked Facebook.

Because let's face it-- that's how we figure out what to do, what to eat, which album to buy. We crowdsource it. And then I put "srsly, help me", just to emphasize how srs I was.

Here's what I've got.

1. Lasagna. It's okay. I like the big floppy noodles. But it ain't on the slow carb diet.

2. Cupcakes. I LOVE THEM. I only eat one per week, on Treat Day. Last Saturday, it was a frozen pumpkin chocolate crapcake from this batch, and even though it was smooshed and reminiscent of failure, it was EXQUISITE.

3. Lasagna cupcakes. SO MUCH NO. Although somewhere, in cat heaven, Garfield is purring.

3. Cactus flowers. My mom's cactus has flower babies once a year, and she takes a bunch of pictures, which I find very confusing. What are you going to do with pictures of a cactus? And then they wither up and look like tiny, sad vaginas.

4. Having "the talk" with your kids. Alright. So you know how Nina's cactus has flowers every year? One day your girl parts will look like that, and then when you get married to a man on whom we've done a complete background check, he'll put his... nevermind. Just don't touch yourself at the neighborhood pool, okay?

5. Rainbows. Sorry, but the whole 'double rainbow' phenomenon kind of ruined rainbows for me. Now I'm all, WHERE'S THE DOUBLE RAINBOW, HUH, GOD??

6. Epistemology. I like to purposefully mispronounce words just to mess with people. Like when Obama announced he was running for president, I called him "BARE-ick." It drove people crazy. So if you heard me say that, rest assured I wasn't being a political ignoramus. I was just screwing with you. Really.

7. What to blog about. Yeah, so when I'm hot on a new book idea-- like, say, chapter 3 of DARK SPARKLY YA, I don't spend much time thinking about what to blog about. And then THIS happens. Sorry.

8. Indecisiveness. I don't believe in it.

9. Pinecones. Once, when I was about 8, my dad told me he would give me a penny for every pine cone I picked up and put in the wheel barrow. I got to 108 and then spilled the wheelbarrow in the pine island, thus losing count and losing the previously counted pinecones among their uncounted neighbors. He found me there, weeping over $1.08 and just gave me $10 to quit crying. I used it to buy a mini-synthesizer.

10. Pool drama. Okay, so how has no one ever written a sitcom about the politics of the neighborhood pool? It's seriously humanity at its worst. And you get squirted in the face a lot, which nobody likes. I think I might just buy myself a big-ass squirt gun and go all Justified on the poorly supervised hooligans. Also, I personally believe that if another kid tries to drown my kid, my kid is entitled to punch that kid in the face.

So there you have it. FACEBOOK HAS SPOKEN.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

caterpillar livin'

engagement photo with jag

One of our engagement photos, 2002.

Back when Dr. Krog was in graduate school, we lived in a little rural town that we adored. Rent was cheap, the scenery was amazing, groundhogs were plentiful, and we found the most darling little mill house right by a train track that only had a train once a week.

And it was a small, cute train that didn't even rattle the glasses.

It was a very sweet and special time, but every now and then I felt the pinch of a small-town salary. One time, my friend Amy was redecorating her house, and I expressed my envy of her fancy decorator and beautiful new furniture.

"What you're doing is called worm livin'," she told me. "My daddy says everybody has to do it. Everybody has to pay their dues and scrape along, and then one day, you'll get to decorate, too."

Or she said something like that. She always fed me full of good food and wine, so things got a bit muzzy. And then she gave me her old curtains, and they were my first curtains ever, and I felt fancy.

Fast forward to 2007, when we moved into our first real house. We didn't go overboard, but we did a little bit of painting, got a couple of new pieces of furniture-- but not couches, since the kids would just ruin 'em. My mom gifted us a nice bit of money, and we put in pretty ceiling fans and tile in the bathrooms. Things that would last. I put up brand new curtains. And I thought my days of worm livin' were past.

And they were.

Technically.

I recently realized we're in a new stage: Caterpillar livin'.

That's when your kids are young and raucous, and you can't enjoy your pretty things a bit and just have to wait it out until the little monsters become graceful butterflies.

I put up beautiful curtains in my baby boy's room. Recently, he yanked them down and twisted the curtain rod into a pretzel like Superman. Then he pulled out all the slats of his blinds, so I took those down. He lulls himself to sleep through domestic carnage. In the end, each night, I hang a ratty, holey old blanket over his windows, and by morning, he's pulled that down, too.

Could I buy new blinds and a stronger curtain rod? Sure. But he'd just pull 'em down again. So for now, we're caterpillar livin' with a ratty blanket.

The bookshelves are denuded. The downstairs hall is stripped to the sheetrock from a series of progressively larger baby gates. And my beloved sunroom is a constant chaos of toys and bikes and tiny baby socks that surely sprout like mushrooms while we sleep.

My big girl's quite reasonable now, but my boy is trouble. If we clean it up, he pulls it back out. If we put it up, he pulls it back down. He's a two-year-old boy, which is basically a muscley little id hellbent on ducky crackers and destruction. And quite honestly, when my kids are playing happily, I'd rather edit a book than chase them around with a bucket and a dustrag.

I'm so close. So close to having my house back.

Until then, until this marvelous little boy learns that cleanliness is close to not-makin'-your-mama-craziness, my house can be summed up in one phrase.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS.

And one day, I'll wake up. And I won't have to wipe anybody's bottom, and I won't have to carry anybody around, and I'll only have to sweep the kitchen once a day. And then I'll probably miss having fuzzy little caterpillar children shrieking with joy as they destroy my house. Because even if I can't have folks over and I can't keep up, I'll remember this time for the rest of my life as one of the sweetest.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

guns and rapture

It's 7am, and I'm drinking Treat Day skank coffee, which is filled to the rim with sugary hazelnut goodness. It's rapturous.

Well, maybe not.

I mean, it didn't turn me into a pile of ash. And it tastes heavenly. And the morning's way too pretty for hell on earth to be happening. Twitter seems to think it's not going to go down until 6pm or so, so I guess I'm in for a long day of cupcakes, Five Guys, and cinnamon rolls, which are almost the perfect shade of brown. Three more minutes in the oven, then it's cinnamony rapture time.

Mmm... rapture.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to make fun of religious zealotry... much.

But it seems kind of funny that the people so determined they know God's will think he's set a date and time to swoop them all up to somewhere better. Like this life's not good enough. That's what I find so insulting, I guess. That stubborn insistence that today's just a waiting room for a place where people can *truly* be happy.

I remember when Y2K was on the way, and my religious grandparents had a total stockpile of food, just in case. I found a can of Cesar Tasty Bits stuck in between all those tins of tuna fish and potted meat, and I slipped that one in the trash without telling Mimi that God didn't want her to end her days eating dog food.

Of course, Y2K passed without a blip. And I'm hoping today's rapture and next year's Mayan doomsday will as well. At the very least, I hope the Mayan gods wait until after my book gets published, because I want to throw one hell of a launch party and invite all of y'all.

Plus, I've got a lot of everyday raptures I want to go on enjoying.

The rapture of a little boy's full-body hug.

The rapture of a little girl singing songs about Transformers.

The rapture of a beautiful, sunny day and laughter by the pool.

The rapture of that funny little Carolina Wren that builds a nest in our outdoor grill every single year, thereby insuring we haven't grilled out in four years.

The rapture of writing, or painting, or reading, or just holding the hand of someone you love while watching season 1 of Justified on DVD.

The rapture of ziplining and horseback riding and whitewater rafting and snorkeling and having adventures that shock you out of your everyday blur.

The rapture of hot cinnamon rolls and sugary coffee that's all the more rapturous now that I only get it once per week.

And the rapture of finally having muscles, thanks to forgoing the sugar for six days a week.




Do I get to keep my guns in heaven?

*

WAIT, WHATS THAT NOISE?

IS THAT THE RAPTURE?

No.

It's just our neighbors, dragging their trash can back down the driveway.

We've still got time to enjoy another cinnamon roll.

Serenity now? Meh. RAPTURE NOW.

Friday, May 20, 2011

taking the plunge



The neighborhood pool opened last Saturday.

We finally made it out today.

86 degrees is warm enough to swim, right?

We are very brave people who promptly came home
and drank warm milk and ate buffalo chicken skewers.

Oh, and we found a penguin.



Seriously, he couldn't put his arms down because of the swimmies,
and so he just ran around flapping like a baby penguin.

He got down to the 3rd step on the stairs.

Our big girl can stand in the shallow end now.

And me?

I feel good enough about losing 12 pounds to show you what I look like in a bathing suit.



Eh, the top half, anyway.

I got in up to my waist and stayed in.

Mostly because I was too numb to move.

But we did it.

We went swimming, dammit.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

down with sensible shoes



When I was young, I got to pick out shoes every fall at the athletic store with my dad. I always went for the most brightly colored ones. I remember the look of woe on dad's face when I went for the paint-splattered neon LA Gear high-tops instead of the sleek, no-nonsense tennis shoes that real athletes wore.

Then in high school, I bought hippy shoes and witch shoes and punk shoes.

Then in college, I bought hippy shoes and witch shoes and punk shoes.

And a pair of fringed cowboy boots that I was too puss to wear in public.

And then I bought comfortable, sensible work shoes.

And then I bought comfortable, sensible, one-size-larger pregnancy shoes.

And now?





Now I wear shoes that make me so happy I could squeal.

Well, yeah, and then I *do* actually squeal,
because wearing shoes like that feels wonderful.

Just another reason life's better at 33.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

short story: Ouija for Jesus

I look at Charlie Rae and shake my head in a way that anyone else could read.

Anyone but Charlie.

"I'm so close, Gina," she says. "So close I can taste it. And it tastes like..."

She looks up into her frizzy, dyed-orange bangs, licking her lips like a dog eating a peanut-butter covered pill. "It tastes like Sweet Tarts. Ooh! Or 'Nilla Wafers!"

I roll my eyes, but again, the gesture's wasted. She's my best friend and neighbor, but Lordy, she's an idjit.

"Bless your heart," I say, because it's the only thing I can say. It's Southern Old Lady Code for, "Sugar, you're an idjit," but she just smiles, showing her dentures.

"Thank you for that, Gina," she says.

The old fool has been holed up in her craft room for two weeks. She's signed up for the Jefferson Ladies' Auxiliary Mission Help the Children Annual Christian Craft Fair for Jesus, and she's determined to raise a million dollars for them poor kids, the poor soul.

There's just two problems.

One, she wants to make Christian Ouija Boards, and
two, as said before, she's an idjit.

"Charlie Rae," I say as kindly as possible, "Can't you just make that coconut cake everyone loves so much? Your baked goods could turn the devil himself sweet as honey."

But she won't listen.

"I had a message from Jesus, sugar," she says, like I'm the fool. "He wants the world to know the truth of him, and so he done told me to invent the first Christian Ouija Board, so as all them heathens can find his light. And it's going real well, too. I'm close."

She holds up an old Monopoly board from the Goodwill, and she's painted over it with seventeen bottles of White Out. It's as thick as toothpaste and smells like little baby tumors waiting to be born, and she used some neon green puffy paint to draw on it. There's all them letters spread out from A to Z, and then YES and NO like I remember from when I was a girl and we'd use the bedeviled thing to see which boy we was supposed to marry. But then it's got a lopsided smiley face with a crown of thorns on top, and across the bottom, there's various Bible verses that don't help nobody.

"That's really something, Charlie Rae," I say, chewing my gum like a nanny goat watching her kid about to get sold down the river.

I've lived next to Charlie Rae Stills for over 30 years, and I feel protective of her. Her son told me ages ago he done washed his hands of her tomfoolery, and bit by bit, she's showed me why.

She spends her rent buying caramel popcorn from the Boy Scouts, which she can't eat with her false teeth. And she sometimes forgets of a Sunday that Jesus is only supposed to get 10% and leave the rest to live on. She figures he needs a good tip, if she wants decent service.

"I got the board all right, Gina," she says proudly. "But what do I do for that triangular do-a-ma-hicky that the chirren use to find God's word?"

There's so much wrong with that sentence that I don't even get started. I sigh. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make the dumb creature understand that Jesus ain't gonna stop his business in heaven to answer questions on a gaming board.

"You knit mighty fine, Charlie Rae," I say.

She chortles and rocks back on her Naugahyde couch.

"I knew you was good for something, Gina girl!" she screeches. "You got any yarn?"

I sigh and chew, sigh and chew.

"I got some nice mauve acrylic," I finally answer. "From the Hobby Lobby."

"You go get it while I find my stitch gauge," she says, and I let the screen door slam behind me on the way out.

My intervention didn't turn out at all like they do on that TV show my girl records for me. Far be it from me to take the Lord's simplest soul and help her see the light he himself ain't seen fit to shed. I leave that yarn on her front porch with half a bag of those biscuits she loves so much and settle in at home for some Judge Judy. I admire a woman with sharp mind and a neat lace collar, although I bet even Judge Judy couldn't talk Charlie Rae out of her crusade.

When I show up at the church gymnasium the next weekend, I ain't seen Charlie Rae for days. Her lights have been on, but every time I call, she says, "Idle hands, Gina. Idle hands," and hangs up.

It doesn't take long to find her, and she's got my best checker tablecloth over her little card table. Four of them Jesus Ouija Boards are sitting there, each one with its own little knitted pink triangle pointer.

"I made an extra one for you, Gina," she says proudly. "Cuz I know they's about to sell out."

I tuck the thing into my net bag and mumble my thanks before anyone notices. Poor old crazy woman. I hope somebody shows up and buys one, because I won't be able to stand watching her cry into her sweet tea tonight.

I put that piece of junk on my dining room table, and every time I pass by it, I thank the Lord for my abundant good sense.

The only thing that bothers me is the fact that no matter what I do with that pink knitted triangle pointer, no matter where I hide the darned thing, it always ends up right back on the board, pointing to that Bible passage about how folks in glass houses shouldn't be throwing no stones.

*

25 minute exercise. Choose a sitcom premise and write about it. I chose "Character is trying to make a product for an arts and crafts fair," and "Character is staging an intervention for a friend."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

KILL IT. KILL. IT.



In case you weren't riveted to my Tweetstream yesterday afternoon-- and if not, honestly, what else do you have to do? What do you mean, you actually have a life?-- then I assure you that the monster in the photo is now somewhere in the sewer system below us, probably having ginormous, half-crocodile mutant babies.

I was not aware, before then, that some spiders were cream-filled.

This one, like the newest abomination by Oreo, was double-triple-super-stuffed.

It lived under my dishwasher and stalked me for hours.

It slapped my cat.

I swear to God, it slapped my cat.

And now I'm afraid to do dishes.

At least, that's what I'm telling Dr. Krog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

feeling plucky

Sometimes, humanity baffles me.

And I'm not talking about war or eating raw oysters.

I mean like today, I was in the Trader Joe's parking lot. It wasn't crowded or anything, and the day was cool but not raining. A silver minivan pulled up to the empty space beside my car and did that pushy edge-forward-edge-forward thing to stake a claim.

But silly me, I continued to calmly buckle my toddler's car seat, because I am one seriously selfish bitch.

So she started honking.

Seriously. She honked at me to hurry.

So I took my time, hoping she would spontaneously combust, or maybe just choose another parking space. But she didn't do either of those things. She just pulled right on in, inches from my car.

And then I learned why she was in such a darned hurry.

Well, first she ate a bunch of greasy noodles out of a Chinese take-out box.

Then she pulled out the tweezers.

And started plucking.

HER CHIN.

So I want to formally apologize.

Lady, I am sorry I made you 45 seconds late to pluck your chin hairs.

And I'm sorry you have chin hairs.

That you feel you need to pluck in public.

And I want to thank you for a little perspective on a frustrating day.

I may have had a difficult day, but at least I'm not plucking chin hairs in the parking lot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

marry/kiss/kill: bathing suit shopping edition

There is beach in my future, which means there's bathing suit shopping in my present.

But there's a problem.

Okay, it's bathing suit shopping. There are lots of problems.

I feel pretty reasonably good about my body-- at least the best I've felt about it since 2002 or so. But the main problem is style. Currently, suits fall into several categories: Nautical, 80's NEON, Uber-Ruffles, Utilitarian German Nanny. And lots of them utterly fail to take boobs into account, which blows my mind, since isn't that all guys look at, anyway?

I went to three stores and couldn't find a single thing that looked good. Everything I tried on made me feel like I was on Kids Incorporated or Mama's Family.

And thus I present you with MARRY/KISS/KILL, Bathing Suit Edition.

Round 1:




I mean, seriously.

That first one looks cute but combines HORIZONTAL STRIPES with a FLOPPY ROSE and NO STRAPS. The second one is straight-up Angela from Who's the Boss, and the third one looks like pajamas made out of a tablecloth.

If you can't find a bodaciously made teen model who can make a swimsuit look gorgeous, what's the point of a 33 year old mom of two kids trying to look good in it?

And if you're thinking, "But those are all Juniors. You're a woman. Look in the section from grown-ups, fool," then let me cover that one, too.

Round 2:



Basically, you're going to look like Grandma's couch cushions. Or have a weird mid-boob ring.

Those are your only options.

At least, if you shop at Old Navy, Target, and Kohl's, which is where I went shopping.

Last year, I posted about how sickened I was by the ultra-thin bathing suit models. This year, I see some girls with curves, especially on the Target site, which is great. But I still think it's time for a swimsuit revolution in which they focus on what makes a girl look good instead of just trying to flail in the rancid puddles of teen style leftovers.

Honestly, no one looks good in fluorescent plaid. Right? Right??

In any case, anybody want to play MARRY/KISS/KILL with the above swimsuits, many of which I have (sadly) actually tried on?


*NOTE: If you actually own any of those swimsuits, good for you. They all looked like crap on me. I applaud you for looking awesome in your own awesome way because you are awesome.

Friday, May 13, 2011

feelin' stompy


Yesterday, I put on my favorite shoes and a new shirt and felt like dancing.

But since Blogger has been down and unruly, I couldn't post until now.

Now, I feel STOMPY.

Me = Godzilla in awesome shoes

Tiny Car = BLOGGER, this weird cold, my unholy hunger for sugar, people who park too close, whoever canceled Firefly, the itchy spot on my healing tattoo, and the dueling-evil-banjos nature of my kids' attitudes today.

STOMP.

STOMPITY STOMP STOMP.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled unruly-ness.

Please eat a cookie for me. But don't tell me about it.

Because I'll totally stomp on you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the secret of V2

When I was young, I wanted to be a lot of things. Most of them were things my parents suggested based on my interests, my intelligence, and my future ability to make mad cash and buy them fancy cars. But as time went by, I decided I didn't really want to be a doctor or a vet or an advertising executive.

I got to high school, and I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, but no one told me how to reach my goals. There was no how-to guide for any of the jobs I considered, and so when it came time to choose a college major, I just did what I was: art.

It was three of the most miserable years of my life, and the piece of paper I finally got in exchange for my time is actually pretty useless. Here's the truth, kids: No job description begins with "Studio Artist Wanted."

And I didn't know what to do with myself, so I did what I had always done, working at local arts centers. It's a fun, interesting job that barely pays minimum wage, and there are approximately 2 job openings every 10 years, mainly if someone dies.

After my daughter was born, I quit. I was lucky enough that my husband's well-planned career made enough money for a comfortable life without my minimum-wage art salary.

But I had no idea what to do with myself.

I tried going back to painting murals, but that wasn't much fun with a baby, plus that one crazy weasel-woman broke my heart and ruined it all. I tried making my own baby slings, but that was a minefield of possible lawsuits.

And then one day, I wrote a book.

And it was an awful book.

I didn't realize it was awful until I'd given it a read through, changing typos and grammatical errors along the way. I saw flaws in the story, dull spots, things that needed work. So I did a full revision. And then I let some friends read it and did another. And another.

That book didn't find an agent. But the next one did.

And I learned a major lesson, one of the most important ones in my life:

Everything requires revision. Nothing is perfect the first time.

Every book you've ever loved? The author has done 10 revisions, the agent has done 3 read-throughs, the editor has ripped it apart with a red pen, and a team of copywriters have descended upon it like a hoard of hungry monkeys.

But it goes beyond books, too.

My career now?

It's a revision.

I picked the wrong major. Maybe I picked the wrong college. I picked the wrong degree and the wrong job market. But you know what? The second version of my career, my V2, is going pretty well. I was meant to be a writer.

And it goes past my career. I even dumped my husband-- and was dumped by him-- before we got married. And I dated a lot of nice-- but not quite right-- guys before that.

Some days, I don't feel like a very good mother. And I think, "Tomorrow, I get a chance to be better. I get a do-over."

Basically, I've learned that there's always room for change, for personal betterment. For a revision. If something isn't working, it might be worth brainstorming and trying again. Making a list of pros and cons. Following a dream instead of sticking to the same old routine or career or path of thought that clearly isn't working for you.

I'm sure Dr. Phil has said it much more eloquently, but life is a constant work of art, something that requires erasing and sketching and studying. Nothing is set in stone. Revision is always in your power.

It's never too late for a V2.

Or a V3. Or a V4.

Or even, sometimes, V10.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

because it was a dare, okay?


That's my first tattoo, a Cheshire Cat on my hip from 1996. I got it the day of the Cure concert, and it totally bled through my black silk dress, which I didn't discover until I was guzzling post-show coffee at the Waffle House in the wee hours of the morning.

And you know what?

I still love it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

the fourth ball



Believe it or not, I used to be quite the juggler.

I could ride a unicycle or balance board, juggle rings or pins, and do pretty much any pattern with three balls.

And you guys wonder why I wasn't Homecoming Queen, right?

I also had a Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut. Yeah.

Anyway, there was one juggling feat I could never quite master.

Four balls.

Three made sense. Whether it was a shower, a cascade, columns, or chase, three balls were a piece of cake. Add in a fourth one, and I just fell apart. It never worked out. There was never a good place for it. And it made me slightly insane and supremely panicked.

My life is like that a lot now.

Even though I keep more than three balls in the air-- kids, husband, parents, grandparents, work, writing, editing, friends, reading, sleep, exercise, diet, housekeeping-- for some reason, right now, I feel like I just can't figure out where the fourth ball goes, like I'm constantly dropping something or leaving early or appearing slightly batty.

I clean every day, but I can't keep up with the house. I'm always forgetting something important at the store-- hello, diapers. And there always seems to be smoke in the air from something I'm cooking. I don't feel like an adult-- I feel like Christina Applegate in Don't Tell Mom, The Babysitter's Dead, and I would really just love to go sit on the roof and throw the plates off one by one before shooting them.

I think, for lots of us, this is simply life with small children. It takes so much bandwidth to keep them safe, fed, active, and relatively tidy that we're always missing something. Especially when I'm writing or focusing on my own thoughts, the external stuff just goes to crap. I get to a point where I realize I haven't seen my friends for a week and don't have any clean shirts and we're out of paper towels and using socks to clean the counter and I just think-- CRAP, IT'S THAT CURSED FOURTH BALL!

But of course, the actual fourth ball is the writing, the thinking for myself. I concentrate so hard on the fourth ball that I drop the other three. Oops.

Typical.

So I'm curious.

Does anybody else have a fourth ball?

The one thing that sends you over the edge?


Tell me I'm not the only one with limited juggling skills.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

unruly ink

I did something today that I haven't done since 1998 or so.

I got a tattoo.

To be more accurate, I covered up the one I got in 1998. It was the kanji symbol for eternity.

Mmm. Delicious irony.

So it was this.


Which I swear was very cool and innovative, back in the day when cell phones were the size of Coke cans. I WAS VERY COOL, DAMMIT.

And then I went to Psycho Tattoo in Marietta and met the extremely talented Rob Berrong, who has an awesome vintage Man-E Faces figure on his desk. I brought him a handful of feathers, and he went to work.


And I read Divergent by Veronica Roth on my Nook for a while while my neurons buzzed, and we talked about moms in tennis skirts getting bleeding Edward tattoos.

And in the end, I have this.



So that's much better.

Back when I was just starting the publishing journey, I made myself all sorts of promises.

Sell a book, and you can buy wall-to-wall bookshelves and more books.

Sell a book, and you can get a new tattoo.

Sell a book, and you can go to Disneyworld.

Sell a book and prove that you're an adult, which you just sort of disproved by wanting the same crap you wanted when you were a kid.

In any case, I'm happy. And my neck tickles.

And if you're in the ATL and looking for a great tattoo artist, check out Rob at Psycho Tattoo, which honestly isn't as psycho as it sounds.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

the main ingredient is love. the secondary ingredient is robot.


You might think that's what love looks like. And it is.

Or, if you read this blog frequently, you might think love looks like the new steampunktastic boots Dr. Krog finally forced me to give in and buy since they refused to go on sale and made me drool all over the keyboard.



And you'd be right. That's also love.


But sometimes, love looks like this.





And then, an hour later, it starts to look like this.



And then your four-year-old walks in and laughs and tell you that it's ugly and horrible, and you tell her to buzz off and mind her own beeswax because YOU'RE NOT DONE YET, DAGNABBIT.

And then an hour later it looks like this.


And you say to yourself, "Man, it's hard to make fist-sized cakeballs and coat them in gray-tinted white chocolate."

And then you scratch your head and add, "That looks like a mutant bee carrying three mutant carrots."

But you keep working, and you use every bowl and spoon and cake pan you own, and then you get this.


And you look at it, and you say, "Yeah, I guess that looks like Omega Supreme."

But you're not sure, so you compare it to your husband's prized possession, one of his all-time favorite, holy grail Transformers.


And then you curse your somewhat lacking skills in cake decoration and the sorry affair of red food coloring, and you clean out the top shelf of the fridge and wonder HOW LONG HAS THAT SLIMY ONION BEEN IN THERE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY?, and you wipe the frosting from your brow and remember why you named your blog "unruly helpmeet."

And then you wait for your sweet husband to come home from work so you can start celebrating his birthday a day early, because that's how you roll, even if he's not feeling all that great.



And then you hope he knows that LOVE looks like an awkward, slightly lumpy, oddly colored, 2-dimensional, cookie-winged facsimile of that weird lump of Japanese plastic he loves so much.

Judging by his face, he knows.

crapcakes


me: Here are the cupcakes I've been working on for you for two days since your school is celebrating your summer birthday today.

biscuit: I don't really like them.

me: Excuse me?

biscuit: That's not really what I wanted.

me: You're saying that you're disappointed with your cupcakes?

biscuit: Yeah. I wanted vines.

me: They're cupcakes, dude. Your favorite flavor. Pumpkin chocolate. Homemade icing in the color you requested. How can you possibly find fault with CUPCAKES??

biscuit: I just don't really think they're very good.

me: (heart quietly breaks)

biscuit: So can I just have one now?

me: No. No way. There's no way you're hurting my feelings and then getting to sit around eating cake for breakfast. We'll just stop at Target and get you some Goldfish to take to school today, and I'll freeze these for some other time, since you find them so unacceptable.

biscuit: (has a screaming, flailing hissyfit, runs upstairs screaming BUT I LIKE THEM!)

me: (stomps around, grumbles, blogs)

biscuit: Sniffle. Mommy. I want my cupcakes. I like my cupcakes. They're nice.

me: Thanks, buddy. Do you want me to put a design on them? Would that make them better?

biscuit: Yeah. Can you do a heart? Because I love you.

me: (heart breaks again for a much better reason)

***

If you're wondering what it's like, having kids, there you have it. They break your heart a hundred times a day in a hundred different ways. Quietly, loudly, with screams and hugs and tears and the sound of things you like shattering on the floor.

But then they fix it again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

slave to the muse

If you're wondering where I am, I'm here.

In this album, wrapped up like caterpillar in a cocoon.




It's funny, how ephemeral and strange and dancing the muse can be. It shows up, I write. I don't clean or cook or talk to friends or do laundry. I listen to the music, I dream, I live in the story, I try to capture it.

I'm a goddamn mess. It's annoying. It's torture. And it's wonderful.

I love it and I hate it and I rarely feel alive as I do when I'm a slave to the muse.

That's all.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

ex-ZIP-it A

Forgive the title. I'm still a fan of Scott Evil.

But that's what we did yesterday: We went on a zipline canopy tour and ropes course at Wildwater Ltd. in Long Creek, SC.



Don't let the perspective fool you. We're 50 feet above the ground there, walking on a telephone pole. Dr. Krog did it, too. I had some definite adrenaline right before this walk. Luckily-- for both of our egos-- we both did the entire course without a single fall.


It was one of the most physically challenging things I've ever done. Trying to maneuver around three other people, telephone poles, random hooks, steel cables, and a bunch of ropes, all while standing higher than a two-story house really makes the adrenaline pulse.



Sometimes, there were no handholds. At all. The bridges and cables sway in the breeze. When they haul you up the first platform with a helicopter winch and it wobbles under your feet, it feels so strange and terrifying and exhilarating. But once you're soaring through the forest and pretending you're on the forest moon of Endor, it gets even better.



You tuck up your knees and cannonball between the branches. Sometimes, you can't even see where you'll end up. And then you're standing in the treetops a hundred feet off the ground, and you realize that placing your trust in a couple of caribiners isn't quite so scary. You forget where you are and notice your foot is halfway off the platform, but it doesn't really matter.



The challenge feels good. Struggling against gravity and your own body's fragile need to feel safe. Finding comfort in the height. Trusting yourself to put your hand here, and your foot there, climbing even higher.


Walking with two hand-holds felt like cheating. Plus, about five seconds later, a school bus of teens arrived to use those harnesses you see lying on the ground there, and I wouldn't have shown an ounce of fear no matter what.

I'm not a Shmitty, dammit.


On the last zip line, which was over a beautiful little lake, Dr. Krog and I raced each other.

I won.

And it felt odd, afterward, to have my feet on solid ground again. In just a couple of hours, I'd found my air legs. I'd gotten used to the swaying, the bouncing of the cables.

And I have to wonder what the experience would have been like when I was sixteen or twenty-four. Would I have wanted to do it? Would I have been scared? Would I have slipped? Would I have been able to trust the equipment and the guides and the statistics and, yes, even my own body?

I don't know. But I'm glad I finally realized, at 33, that experiences and memories matter more than things. Now we've added wildwater rafting and staying in a yurt at Wildwater to our list of things to do. And I want to learn to scuba dive. And I want to ride horses more.

What is it they said in Garden State? "Have fun staring into the infinite abyss?"

Yeah, I totally do.